Anheuser Busch awarded "Creative Marketer of the Year" at Cannes Lions despite Dylan Mulvany flop

Getting "Creative Marketer of the Year" at Cannes Lions isn't chickenshit. Over the decades brands that worked very hard, and globally, won for their consistent strategy and creative output that often spanned every continent, with legendary campaigns that ad students still are inspired by today.

This year the honor goes to Anheuser-Busch whose target-tone-deaf partnering with Dylan Mulvany created so much backlash that AB offered free beer to distributers but were still boycotted by gay bars and famous conservatives alike. Bud Light CEO never intended to be in the center of "that conversation", while LGBTQ groups urged them to stand firm, while influencers created meme-skits about the backlash. And after all this, plus the stock sliding in a slow- downward spiral, Cannes Lions has decided to award their marketing prowess.

Is this one of those "all publicity is good publicity" things? No, as always in award shows, we are speaking about last year. 

Simon Cook, CEO, LIONS, said, “AB InBev have raised the bar once again and embedded a culture that ensures continued success is inevitable. This win bucks the trend and demonstrates an on-going commitment to creativity as a driver for growth.” Their published business results show that AB InBev has achieved an all-time high in sales volume, and brand power, in 2022. 

When March 2023 rolled around, and the Dylan Mulvany partnership sent stock dropping like a lead balloon, it no longer counted to AB history in the eyes of the Cannes Lions. 

I just hope that this won't mean that this award will be a future after-the-fact kiss of death for brands, as we've seen many awards become. Like the last hurrah!

At last year’s Cannes Lions, AB InBev won an outstanding 49 Lions – 1 Grand Prix, 10 Gold, 19 Silver, 19 Bronze – across 10 brands from seven countries. Obviously it is easer to win all that when your brands span from Budweiser to Bud Light to Modelo. To whatever fruited alcohol-infused seltzer water AB sells today. Small single brand companies haven't got a chance here.

The Grand Prix came in the Creative Effectiveness Lions, the award that recognises effective strategy rooted in creativity that drives sustainable business impact over time. ‘Contract for Change’ was said by Jury President Raja Rajamannar to go “above and beyond – it is disruptive, game-changing and has impact lasting into the future”. 

Cook added, “AB InBev’s commitment to creativity and the role it plays in business value creation is further supported by the clear buy-in from the company board, including CEO Michel Doukeris, which has been critical to their success. They’ve also scaled, using the best practice established in the US as a blueprint for their approach across other markets. All of this has delivered incredible business results, and the fact that they now use the number and breadth of Lion wins as a core measure of success shows just how powerful creativity is in driving progress.

It remains to be seen how that approach "across other markets" will effect the main brand, Anheuser-Busch, and all the beers and drinks that are under their umbrella. Congratulations to the Lion award!

Speaking about receiving the award, AB InBev's Michel Doukeris, said, “This is truly unprecedented to win such a prestigious award two years in a row. It is a testament to the creativity of our entire marketing organisation and the relentless focus on connecting in meaningful ways with consumers. Investing in organic growth is our number one priority and this recognition of creativity further demonstrates our brand building excellence.”

AB InBev is scheduled to receive recognition at the concluding Awards Show of the Festival, set to take place on Friday, June 23rd. Furthermore, they have organized a seminar on Monday, June 19th, with the objective of disseminating their acquired knowledge for the betterment of the broader industry. During this event, AB InBev will provide a comprehensive overview of their five-year journey and the sustained success they have achieved. Despite the skinny Dylan Mulvany recent speedbump.

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