Nov. 16, 2023, 4:11 PM UTC / Source: NBC News
Beer giant Anheuser-Busch says its head of U.S. marketing is leaving, months after its Bud Light brand lost its position as the top beer brand in the country.
The company said U.S. Chief Marketing Officer Benoit Garbe will leave at the end of 2023 “in order to embark on a new chapter in his career,” with U.S. Chief Commercial Officer Kyle Norrington taking charge of marketing activities.
The company said other sales leaders will report directly to Anheuser-Busch CEO Brendan Whitworth.
“These senior leadership changes will accelerate our return to growth as we continue to focus on what we do best — brewing great beer for everyone and earning our place in moments that matter,” Whitworth said in an emailed statement.
He also said the changes would reduce layers of management.
Bud Light lost its U.S. leadership title to Modelo Especial over the summer. Sales of the brand have been falling for years while Modelo’s parent, Constellation Brands, gained steam and marketed itself more successfully to younger beer drinkers.
Bud Light was also the target of a sharp backlash after it partnered with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney in April for a sponsored Instagram post that ran the weekend of the NCAA basketball men’s and women’s national championships.
Conservative politicians and influencers said they would boycott the brand in response and shared videos of themselves throwing the beer away, pouring it out, or shooting cans.
Anti-Bud Light graffiti scrawled on a gate in Arco, Idaho, on June 21. Natalie Behring / Getty Images file Bud Light sales plunged. Experts said Modelo Especial would have become the top U.S. beer in the near future anyway, but the combination of the two brands’ sales trajectories and the boycotts gave it the title sooner.
The company tried to escape the controversy and win back people who were swearing off Bud Light. Whitworth said in a statement on April 14 that the company “never intended to be part of a discussion that divides people.”
Weeks later, the company put two top marketing executives on leave. Ahead of Memorial Day, it offered big rebates on Bud Light as well.
The marketing shake-up continued in July as the company said it would lay off 350 employees, or around 2% of its U.S. staff.
Meanwhile Mulvaney said Anheuser-Busch never reached out to her even as she dealt with personal fallout from the boycott. She added that the company’s response “gives customers permission to be as transphobic and hateful as they want.”
Shares of Anheuser-Busch’s parent company, AB InBev, fell from about $66 to $45 at the height of the controversy. They have since recovered most of those losses and closed at about $61 on Wednesday.
Over the last five years, though, AB InBev stock has fallen 22%, while Modelo parent Constellation Brands has risen 21%. Molson Coors is down about 8% over that time, and smaller competitor Boston Beer has gained 11%.
Marley Jay is a business news reporter for NBC News Digital.