In a roundhouse kick and a few body blows, Bud Light has replaced the Mexican import beer Modelo as the official partner of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Desperately seeking to revive its reputation as the go-to beer for the regular guy and gal, the brand ponied up a nine-figure sponsorship deal with the mixed martial arts organization, which starts on Jan. 1, 2024.
The deal specifies a “highly visible presence” during weigh-ins and fights with prominent displays of the Bud Light logo in any digital content and during live events. UFC CEO Dana White released his uncontained excitement through a statement about the biggest-ever-sponsorship deal.
“I’m proud to announce we are back in business together,” White said. “There are many reasons why I chose to go with Anheuser-Busch and Bud Light, most importantly because I feel we are very aligned when it comes to our core values and what the UFC brand stands for.” Is that the reason – or could it be the brand simply outspent the Modelo label in a last ditch effort to make it look like Bud Light is for straight people who like to kick butt in cage matches?
The Bud Light Backlash Continues
Some folks say that “core values” and the brand align with former President Donald Trump and MAGA. But that was before trans-influencer Dylan Mulvaney was paid $100,000 to push the brand to her followers. It was a disastrous decision by a marketing manager who thought the brand was “too fratty.” The new guy in marketing now is seeking a lot rougher, more testosterone-laden alliances. But hold my beer; some UFC fans are still in boycott mode.
X, formerly known as Twitter, blew up at the announcement: “I’m canceling my subscription and never buying ANY PPV (pay-per-view) fights anymore until this sponsorship is gone. This is the worst business deal UFC has ever made EVER,” one angry fan wrote. “How about you explain your pathetic Bud Light sponsorship!!?? What you doing rainbow uniforms next?? Canceling my UFC fight pass subscription,” said another.
Bud Light sales have continually declined since the Mulvaney mishap. And Beer Business Daily, the industry newsletter, says these recent efforts by parent company Anheuser Busch aren’t paying off: “Sales of Bud Light are still sinking, with volumes down 30% year-over-year for the four weeks ending on Oct. 7.” The data was sourced from NielsenIQ data, the leader in consumer buying habits.
Suffice it to say former Bud Light drinkers hold a grudge like a raccoon grips a shiny object.
Can Bud Light Build Back Better?
The beating the brand has taken since the trans-activist fiasco has left a mark. Country stars made a big dent by removing any trace of the brew from their shows, including concert swag, and by not stocking or serving the product from their name-brand bars and restaurants – even if some of them did send a little money Bud light’s way by buying up cases to shoot at. Anheuser-Busch posted a $390 million loss in the second quarter. Not only were bars and restaurants wary of the supply, but retailers were keeping the brand on the shelf as well. Sales are down, and consumer confidence has fallen even further.
The Bud Light brand has made some strides in winning back its main audience, from the return of the Clydesdales and a new focus on farmers and ranchers in billboards and commercials to signing Kansas City Chiefs tight end (and Taylor Swift’s latest beau) Travis Kelce to promote the line. If Kelce can bring even a nano-percentage of Swift’s fan base to Bud Light, the investment will surely pay off with great dividends. Maybe Bud Light can develop its own Mixed Marketing Applications in partnership with the UFC and bring back the fans and the consumers.