AB InBev Won’t Replace US CMO Amid Bud Light Boycott

After a tough 2023 for Bud Light, Benoit Garbe, the U.S. chief marketing officer of parent company Anheuser-Busch InBev, will resign at the end of the year.

Garbe’s marketing role will not be directly replaced, the company confirmed. Instead, U.S. chief commercial officer Kyle Norrington will oversee marketing for the country moving forward.

His departure follows the exit of Bud Light marketing vp Alissa Heinerscheid earlier this year. He will see out 2023 before “embarking on a new chapter in his career,” the business said.

In a statement, AB InBev CEO Brendan Whitworth said the latest executive shakeup would “reduce layers within our organization and better enable our top commercial leaders to drive our business and legacy forward.”

Backlash and the bottom line

The shift to focus on profit follows six months of turmoil for America’s once bestselling beer, which in a short space of time has fallen rapidly from grace following a backlash from conservatives over a social media promotion with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney.

Bud’s issues started in April, when TikTok star Mulvaney promoted Bud Light on her social media platforms as part of a planned partnership. The post received transphobic backlash, with conservatives calling for a boycott.

On the other side, members of LGBTQ+ communities and their allies also rejected the brand, after the business failed to quickly speak out and stand by Mulvaney.

By June, sales had fallen and Modelo Especial had displaced Bud Light as America’s favorite beer. In October, Bud continued to strain AB InBev’s bottom line in the market, with the company reporting a 13.5% decline in third-quarter U.S. revenue per 100 liters.

Since then the brand has invested in a series of marketing campaigns to return Bud Light to its place in pop culture as the easygoing beer of choice. These have included a huge summer push from Anomaly, NFL activations and a new sponsorship deal with UFC reported to be worth $100 million.

As the company puts its marketing budget in the hands of the CCO, Leila Fataar, founder of cultural and marketing strategy firm Platform 13, said Bud Light’s debacle holds lessons for brand leaders everywhere around the importance of connecting with culture.

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