The annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota is a grand celebration of motorcycling, American heritage, and respect for the U.S. military.
While this year’s rally saw a slight dip in attendance compared to the five-year average, Sturgis, a town with a usual populace of 7,000, swelled with the roar of over 250,000 vehicles since its start last Friday.
One would expect every brand associated with such a grand event to relish the attention and sales it garners.
Not so for Budweiser, a brand known to every beer drinker across the nation.
Surprising footage from the rally shows the Budweiser tents and booths conspicuously vacant despite the brand’s prominent presence, complete with banners throughout Sturgis and even the iconic Budweiser Clydesdale horses making an appearance for the opening ceremonies.
TikTok videos, particularly from the popular Cycledrag account with a following of over 350,000 users, highlighted the stark contrast between the bustling rally and the near-empty Budweiser setups.
The videos showcase a well-organized Budweiser pavilion offering shade, cool drinks, and branded merchandise – yet almost entirely devoid of patrons.
Many on social media have been quick to link this unexpected lack of interest to Bud Light’s controversial association with transgender activist Dylan Mulvaney.
Following the association, the beer giant reportedly lost close to $30 billion in market value and faced significant backlash.
As Cycledrag, a prominent voice on TikTok from the rally, noted, “Right now, maybe because of the bad PR, the controversy, people [are] staying away.”
This was followed by a jesting comment that even strong political views might ultimately bow to the allure of alcohol.
But the jest has yet to see fruition.
A follow-up video by Cycledrag captured the continued indifference of rally attendees to the Budweiser stands.
The video depicted eager Budweiser staff trying to maintain a positive demeanor, clad in patriotic tees, but their frustration at the ongoing snub was palpable.
Contrasting this were the scenes at other tents.
“Sturgis is absolutely jam-packed,” Cycledrag emphasized, noting the overflowing attendance at Harley-Davidson and BMW tents.
“There must be a whole lot of beer left over in there,” noting the stark emptiness at Budweiser.
Samantha Chang from the Western Journal reflected on this unexpected turn, suggesting the tepid response at Sturgis might be the public’s way of sending a strong message.
She said it sends an “unequivocal message to Bud Light and other ‘woke’ corporations that using their products to push left-wing propaganda is unacceptable to a large segment of consumers.”
It remains to be seen if this stance by Sturgis attendees will resonate elsewhere, but for now, it seems brands might need to consider more carefully how they navigate the waters of public opinion.
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