On social media the phrase “no good deed goes unpunished” often rings true. That was certainly the case for Anheuser-Busch, the country’s leading brewer, which on Wednesday announced that it was working with the White House to help meet President Joe Biden’s goal of encouraging as many Americans as possible to get vaccinated against Covid-19 by July 4th.
This included the “biggest beer giveaway in history,” the company declared.
“At Anheuser-Busch, we are committed to supporting the safe and strong recovery of our nation and being able to be together again at the places and with the people we have missed so much. This commitment includes encouraging Americans to get vaccinated, and we are excited to buy Americans 21+ a round of beer when we reach the White House goal,” said Michel Doukeris, CEO, Anheuser-Busch via a statement.
“We pride ourselves on stepping up both in times of need and in times of great celebration, and the past year has been no different,” Doukeris added. “As we look ahead to brighter days with renewed optimism, we are proud to work alongside the White House to make a meaningful impact for our country, our communities and our consumers.”
According to the official rules, applicants over the age of 21 “will simply upload a picture of themselves in their favorite place to grab a beer” at MyCooler.com/Beer to enter to get a $5 digital pre-paid card that can be used to purchase their free drink. The giveaway is limited to the first 200,000 people.
From the official Twitter account (@AnheuserBusch), the company also promoted the campaign and posted, “We’re teaming up with the @WhiteHouse in the fight against #COVID. And we’re doing it the best way we know how: bringing everyone together over a Beer mug. Our biggest giveaway ever will be unlocked when we reach the vaccination goal by 7/4/21. #LetsGrabABeer https://bit.ly/3i7zCE9”
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Anheuser-Busch is far from the only company to offer freebies for those who have gotten a vaccine, and on social media there has been praise for those efforts.
Dan Primack (@danprimack), business editor at Axios, quipped, “So if you get vaccinated, you can now get free Budweiser, Krispy Kreme doughnuts and chances to win a lottery. Pretty sure that means you hate America if you don’t get vaccinated.”
“Budweiser’s giving out free beer, and Krispy Kreme’s giving out free donuts. Thanks to my vaccine, I can finally live out my lifelong dream of becoming one of the McKenzie brothers. Take off, eh!,” wrote @_BenMonroe.
A Quick Backlash
However, quite a few users took issue with the campaign right out of the gate. It likely wasn’t the kind of response that Anheuser-Busch may have expected.
Among those who called out the promotion was Jeff Fryer (@JeffFryer), who regularly tweets about B2B marketing and technology. He noted, “Would love to #LetsGrabABeer but don’t qualify. Doesn’t seem very ‘We’ll buy all of (U.S. Flag) a (Beer mug) to celebrate’ if you purposely leave out 20% of the country. What will you do for California or Texas as they’re not covered in this rewards promotion, @AnheuserBusch?”
Still others poked fun at the company and called out the quality of its beer. @SJB11SJB wrote, “I thought people could already get free glasses of water at any establishment.”
“Why would I want a free beer that taste like weasle piss,” pondered @fsteele10.
Even those who supported getting vaccinated poked fun at the brand.
“Idc if it’s bad beer. I’m drinking Budweiser for the next few months,” wrote @TioSamSays.
CPRNews’ Obed Manuel (@obedmanuel) also joked, “Even I’ll drink Budweiser if we can get to 70%…”
Yet some users weren’t joking, and instead expressed their distrust over the vaccines and called out Anheuser-Busch for supporting the White House’s efforts.
“You think injecting ourselves with an experimental vaccine that has caused a record number of side effects and deaths is worth a beer? You can keep your beer, and I may just switch brands now. So tired of this being pushed on us at every turn,” noted @dsd360.
Dealing With The Backlash
A problem with promoting any product via social media is that while it is an excellent broadcast platform, the audience is able to respond in ways the brand can’t control. As noted by the tweets on Wednesday, many were as quick to voice their concerns or share their outright mockery as those who actually offered support for the promotion.
“In the age of social media everything is scrutinized like never before,” warned futurist and brand strategist Scott Steinberg. “Brands need to keep an eye on what they are saying, especially as it can have legal ramifications – such as where a promotion is valid. It may seem like splitting hairs, but it is much more challenging when corporations are involved.”
This also means ensuring that those who can’t take part don’t try to ruin it for everyone.
“When it comes to promotions, especially those involving an alcoholic product the rules can be pretty byzantine and not all that easy to navigate,” explained Steinberg. “That means there could be some very disgruntled consumers who express frustration because they can’t take part.”
Then there is dealing with the almost inevitable backlash. This was certainly going to be the case over something as controversial as the vaccines for the novel coronavirus.
“Everyone is doing their part to get their vaccinations, but those opposed will never see it that way, and they’ll be sure to tweet about it,” added Steinberg. “Anything that gets Americans to turn out and help get us back to semi-normal I say ‘cheers to that.'”