Global beer giant Anheuser-Busch InBev is adjusting its ad and distribution strategy after a tumultuous April. The backlash from conservative customers following a branded gifting to a trans content creator has now reached distributors.

AB InBev is now electing to give free Bud Light to distributors, according to the Wall Street Journal. Multiple distributors across the country are reporting a wave of boycotts and transphobic attacks, with some employees reporting that they have been “confronted by angry people on streets, in stores, and in bars,” per The Wall Street Journal.

Bud Light sales slid downward last month, as NielsenIQ data recorded a drop of a whopping 21 percent in sales per volume during the week of April 9. The sales of other Anheuser-Busch products and brands fell in April, as well.

In this recent bid to win back distributors, Anheuser-Busch promised a free case of Bud Light for each employee. The company is also inviting wholesale clients to learn more about the developing marketing strategy during a meeting at the AB InBev headquarters in St. Louis next week.

The company also released a recent letter to wholesalers — which was also shared with retailers — that attempts to clear up confusion about the influencer’s original video, which has been since misconstrued as a partnership or commercial.

“This can is not a formal campaign or advertisement,” the letter indicated. “Our new vice president of Bud Light and all of us at Anheuser-Busch are committed to reminding all of our consumers why they love Bud Light and why they’ve made it the No. 1 beer in America.”

In addition to distributor incentives, the corporation increased Bud Light’s marketing budget. New advertising centered around the brand’s “easy to drink, easy to enjoy” tagline will be prioritized on a quick turnaround schedule. But based on the public response to Bud Light’s lukewarm statement on April 14, the beer giant may end up further ostracizing customers as well as distributors.

“I lost my cowboy bars and now I could lose my gay bars, too,” one distributor told the Wall Street Journal.

VP Pro Take

“Silence and indecision marked Anheuser-Busch’s early response to the conservative-led boycott of But Light. Since then, the brewer appears to have been most concerned with getting back in the good graces of that consumer-base and (now) appeasing under-fire distributors. The costs of that stance are mounting, between lost sales from the first weeks of the boycott to giving away free inventory and accelerating marketing spend. In the longer term, there’s no telling what price will be paid for upsetting another consumer base: the transgender community and their allies. In the meantime, however, scan providers have shown that Molson Coors’ brands have made major initial gains at ABI’s expense.” Tim McKirdy, VinePair managing editor

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