New UVA Darden Case Examines How Bud Light Cracked Open a Can of Controversy
By Jay Hodgkins
In the latest case from Darden Business Publishing, “Bud Light Cracks Open a Can of Controversy,” University of Virginia Darden School of Business Professor Kimberly Whitler; Multiply CEO Dan Baum and Research Assistant Emily Pasquinelli offer a deep dive into the intricate dynamics of brand crisis management in the digital age, with a focus on the Bud Light “Easy Carry Contest” featuring Dylan Mulvaney.
The case details the events surrounding Bud Light’s controversial marketing campaign involving Dylan Mulvaney, a TikTok influencer. The “Easy Carry Contest,” intended to engage consumers in a playful social media challenge, inadvertently sparked widespread public backlash, significantly impacting Bud Light’s market position, reputation and sales, as well as the overall reputation and market capitalization of parent company Anheuser-Busch InBev.
Whitler led the effort to publish the first business school case study on the Bud Light crisis, offering her expertise in marketing strategy to bring valuable insights to the case.
“The Bud Light case is a testament to the importance of understanding and anticipating the public’s response in the digital era,” she said. “This case aims to equip future business leaders with the analytical and critical thinking skills needed to navigate similar situations by helping first prevent such brand crises and, when they occur, minimizing the subsequent damage.”
Baum, with an extensive background in advising beverage brands, adds a practitioner’s perspective to the analysis.
“This case is a prime example of the complexities facing brands today,” Baum said. “The Bud Light crisis spiral is proof of both the power and the risk of operating in today’s social media-led world. It’s a scenario that gives rise to a number of issues that marketers are best served to hash out at business school, not in the real and unforgiving market.”
The case is designed to challenge students at all levels, from undergraduates to MBA and executive MBA students to C-level audiences, encouraging them to critically evaluate each decision point and its potential implications. Given its significant impact on the U.S. beer market and the extensive lessons it offers in crisis management, “Bud Light Cracks Open a Can of Controversy” aims to be an invaluable educational resource for decades.
The case is now available through Darden Business Publishing and is recommended for business educators interested in teaching or for business professionals to better understand the complexities of brand management and public relations in today’s interconnected world.
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business prepares responsible global leaders through unparalleled transformational learning experiences. Darden’s graduate degree programs (MBA, MSBA and Ph.D.) and Executive Education & Lifelong Learning programs offered by the Darden School Foundation set the stage for a lifetime of career advancement and impact. Darden’s top-ranked faculty, renowned for teaching excellence, inspires and shapes modern business leadership worldwide through research, thought leadership and business publishing. Darden has Grounds in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the Washington, D.C., area and a global community that includes 18,000 alumni in 90 countries. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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