Sunday, February 5, Seaside, California

Sunday, February 5, Seaside, California

To those folks who have spent the last week clamoring on social media for everybody to #boycottbudweiser and #boycottbudwiser, I say sure, you go for it. I do have some advice, though.

First, if you’re in the latter group, it’s probably a good idea to learn to spell what it is you’re boycotting. Second, and for both groups of hashtaggers, you might want to create some guidelines for your own role. Oh, and you are a Bud drinker, right? If you’re not, then your boycott doesn’t really mean much, does it?

So, assuming you’re a Budweiser customer, are you never going to drink another Bud in your life or is it just until Anheuser-Busch InBev goes back to Clydesdale-and-puppy commercials? Are you ruling out just Budweiser or all ABI products and do you realize what that would mean? Are you sufficiently passionate about your dissatisfaction to carry yourself through however long of a haul you choose?

Finally, let’s do some math. If you’re a one-Bud-a-night drinker and decide to boycott for one year, come February, 2018, you’ll be able to take pride in having made a huge multinational conglomerate lose their 40% or so profit from your 219 pre-tax dollars. (Amount based on the price of a Bud 30-pack at my local CVS on Sunday. Forty percent = $87.60.) You also will probably have consumed 365 cans/bottles of Coors Light or Diet Coke or, if you go the teetotaller route, added a couple hundred dollars to your retirement account.

Sunday, February 5, Monterey, CA

Sunday, February 5, Monterey, California

But if that 60-second commercial still so stuck in your craw that you’re ready to go pour every Bud in your fridge down the sink, then go for it!

For anyone who missed the ad and is wondering what the brouhaha is about, here’s some background. ABI uploaded “Born the Hard Way,” its 2017 Super Bowl Budweiser commercial to YouTube on January 31, and the comments started pouring in on social media and news websites. The sepia-toned version of a young Adolphus Busch’s fateful journey from Germany to St. Louis resonated with many viewers. Others argued that what they perceived as a politically charged (and anti-Trump) message had no place in the Super Bowl. Never mind that William Knoedelseder, author of Bitter Brew: The Rise and Fall of Anheuser-Busch and America’s King of Beer, told Slate.com, “It’s got wonderful production values, it’s very expensive and, I think, very effective—and mostly fiction.” And then there were those rallying cries to boycott.

The most insightful commentary I saw came from Jeff Alworth in his February 1 Beervana post, “AB InBev Targets Trump?” Alworth’s take: “Anheuser-Busch InBev is a multinational company (its awkward name points to the three heads that still guide things from New York, Belgium, and Brazil) for whom nationalism is bad for business. Tariffs are bad for business. Blocking the free movement of employees across national borders is bad for business.”

Say, post, tweet whatever you want, but as of 4:00 p.m. Pacific time today (February 7), “Born the Hard Way” was nearing 27 million views on YouTube and 10.3K comments. That’s not counting seven unofficial uploaded versions, including one with Spanish subtitles. Even with the estimated $10 million ABI spent on air time alone and undisclosed production costs, I’m guessing they’ve gotten their money’s worth–and the attention is still rolling in.

Personally, if I wanted to boycott, ABI—which I don’t—I’d dig a little deeper and find something that bothered me more than one commercial. For example, well before Anheuser-Busch was bought by InBev, the company had a history of playing hardball against it competitors, primarily Miller and Coors a decade ago.

But it hasn’t been all roses for ABI or their macro competitors. The January/February issue of New Brewer contains this quote from the November Beer Insights Seminar. “In 2008, when InBev bought Anheuser-Busch and Miller Coors formed, those two companies combined for more than 78 volume shares of the U.S. market. Now they have 68 volume shares, a drop of more than 10 share points in eight years. The top three light beers have shed 10.6 million barrels during that timeframe. Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors have lost 24.5 million barrels between them.”

Some of that market share has gone to Constellation Brands, which imports Corona and other Mexican beers and bought Ballast Point in late 2015, but craft beer has been inching up its share of the market to 12% at the end of 2015. ABI’s response? Get in the craft game.

In addition to its line of Shock Top beers and Stella Artois, ABI now owns at least ten successful craft breweries, most acquired in the last two and a half years (Goose Island, Blue Point Brewing, Elysian Brewing, 10 Barrel Brewing, Golden Road Brewing, Four Peaks Brewing, Breckenridge Brewery, Virtue Cider, Devil’s Backbone and Karbach Brewing). All are part of ABI’s The High End division.

The Shock Top family

The ABI Shock Top family

Only a few years ago, 10 Barrel was a little brewpub in Bend, Oregon.  Today, there are five pubs in four states and a production brewery in Bend. Last fall, the first Goose Island in Mexico opened in Monterrey. And there are the ten ABI-owned beer distributorships, spread from New York to California, which, of course, focus on placing ABI brands, thereby gobbling up the limited retail shelf space and taps that would otherwise go to independent craft breweries and their products. In their dealings with non-ABI distributorships, the company frequently provides lucrative incentives for distributors and, in turn, for retailers, something no craft brewery can compete with.

But for the #boycottbudweiser folks, it’s all about that commercial. My prediction? The movement will fizzle long before Super Bowl LII.

Speak Your Mind