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Buy a Bud Light and toast the distributors

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If you talk to John Saputo, owner of Gold Coast Eagle Distributing, the Sarasota-Manatee region’s distributor of Anheuser-Busch beers, the past two weeks have been the worst in his 50 years in the business.

All because of a marketing vice president who did what so many other corporate hotshots do: follow the crowd, like a sheep jumping off a cliff with all the others.

By now, no doubt, you’re familiar with the uproar that occurred after Anheuser-Busch’s Bud Light brand sponsored during March Madness an Instagram post on the account of Dylan Mulvaney, a transgender media limelight seeker.

After Bud Light consumers who do not embrace transgender people saw the post as it went viral, they literally trashed Bud Light, many of them vowing to boycott the brand and never drink another Anheuser-Busch product again. 

ABInBev’s stock lost $3.3 billion in market value in a day once the news spread, with its stock dropping from $65.11 a share to $63.43. As of Monday, April 17, the stock had risen to $64.92.

But the high-profile controversy continued.

Saputo said more than 400 Anheuser-Busch distributors were to meet Monday with the CEO Brendan Whitworth, to talk about the company’s marketing and response to the controversy.

This was after Saputo spent the past two weeks incessantly fielding phone calls and emails from angry Anheuser-Busch loyalists berating the company and everyone associated with it. By Monday, Saputo was exasperated, exhausted and frustrated — that incident occurred, by the media coverage and by the corporate response. That’s what happens when you have no control over the events; it drives you nuts.

In time, the smoke from this bomb will blow over, to be remembered in the future as an all-time, infamous marketing catastrophe. (Who can forget “New Coke”?) It’s one of those “What were they thinking?” moments.

The marketing VP who directed the partnership was yet another woke, sheep-like millennial joining the other corporate sheep kowtowing to the latest cultural agitators and alleged victims who have garnered the sheep-media spotlight.

Alissa Heinerscheid, the Anheuser-Busch vice president of marketing apparently responsible for the uproar, told a podcast that her job was to transform Bud Light and make it more inclusive.

More inclusive? By jumping on the trans train? 

But at what price and what consequences?

A UCLA study estimates 1.6 million Americans identify as transgender, while there are about 240 million Americans 18 and older, old enough to drink beer. 

So those figures beg the question: If trans people comprise 0.6% of the beer-age population, and if the first principle of ABInBev’s 10 principles is “We dream big. We are building a profitable, growth company,” why would any smart marketing executive think that trying to appeal to 0.6% of the population would move the needle toward being a “growth company”? And why run the obvious risk of offending the millions of Americans who, more than likely, are not on board with the trans movement?

Is this what they teach in the marketing classes at Harvard, Heinerscheid’s alma mater?

She obviously didn’t think through the possible repercussions, in particular how her decision might play in places like Sarasota and Bradenton and among the other 400 AB distributors around the U.S.

These are mostly family-owned businesses that have deep roots in their communities — sponsoring hundreds of All-American community and civic events year after year with free beer, marketing campaigns and other charitable contributions.

Fact is, these distributors don’t deserve to be punished for some colossal gaffe made in the marketing department bubble in New York City.

So if you’re one of the Anheuser-Busch beer drinkers who was totally offended by the Mulvaney fiasco, apply some perspective: Yes, it was a stupid move. Yes, the Anheuser-Busch CEO should have taken responsibility and admitted it was a stupid move that they didn’t think through.

And think of the whole thing as a “one-off” incident. (We hope.) 

A key characteristic of American values is we give people a second chance. Go buy a Bud Light, and make a toast to the 400 AB distributors who are great corporate citizens and American patriots.



Matt Walsh

Matt Walsh is the CEO and founder of Observer Media Group.

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