The makers of Corona beer have hit back at claims the spread of the potentially lethal coronavirus has damaged either sales or the brand’s image in the US.

A statement from Constellation Brands, which brews the lager, stressed that customers “understand there is no link between the virus and our business”.

This comes after two surveys suggested that not all consumers are discerning enough to realise the virus has nothing whatsoever to do with the beer.

One poll, from 5W Public Relations, which quizzed 737 beer drinkers in the US, revealed that 38% of Americans said they wouldn’t buy Corona beer “under any circumstances” because of the virus outbreak. Another 14% said they wouldn’t order the beverage in public, CNN Business reported.

A separate survey from YouGov also measured the negative impact the virus – now officially named COVID-19 – is having on the brand. Researchers reported that there had been a spike in internet searches for “corona beer virus” and “beer virus” in early February, and that purchase intent for Corona beer was at its lowest level for two years. The survey also measured the Corona beer’s buzz score, which assesses how favourably consumers regard a brand; Corona’s had fallen significantly between the start of January and late February.

Maggie Bowman, senior director of communications for the beer division of Constellation Brands, told Campaign: “Despite the misinformation circulating, consumer sentiment and sales remain strong. Consumers understand there’s no linkage between the virus and our business.”

Constellation said Corona Extra sales grew 5% in the United States in the four weeks that ended February 16 – that’s nearly double the trend of the past 52 weeks.

CNN reports Constellation is spending $40 million to launch its Corona Hard Seltzer beer. As part of the push, the brand used the phrase “coming ashore soon” in a tweet, which drew criticism as being in poor taste. It was later deleted.

When asked about the tweet, Bowman told Campaign, “the attention around the teaser distracts from the strength of the planned ad campaign and the overall positive consumer sentiment.

“Now that our product has officially hit the market, our campaign evolves,” she added. “Early signs are extremely positive and we have high expectations for this new brand offering.”

Sourced from CNN, YouGov, Campaign; additional content by WARC staff