America’s best-selling beer brand has waded into controversy by partnering with a transgender spokesperson in a new social media advertising campaign, sparking calls for boycotts by some consumers.
Bud Light, which accounts for over 17% of all beer sold in the United States, has teamed up with Dylan Mulvaney, a biological male who now identifies as a transgender female, to promote its beer.
Mulvaney recently made news after receiving a letter from Vice President Kamala Harris celebrating the social media influencer’s one-year anniversary of transitioning genders.
“I send you my warmest greetings as you celebrate your 365th day of living authentically,” Harris wrote in a March 13 letter to Mulvaney.
Weeks later, on April 1, Mulvaney posted a video to Instagram promoting a Bud Light contest and touting a special can the company sent with Mulvaney’s face on it as well as a congratulatory message similar to the one penned by Harris.
The backlash against the Anheuser-Busch brand was swift.
“Is the Bud Light thing an April Fool’s joke?” tweeted radio host and commentator Erick Erickson. “I mean it is trash beer, but given the constituent demo of Bud Light drinkers, it seems like a terrible marketing thing.”
Townhall columnist Derek Hunter posted a picture of the custom can featuring Mulvaney’s face alongside a can of Budweiser, another Anheuser-Bush product, displaying the brand’s famous slogan, “King of Beers.”
Along with the images, Hunter wrote, “Bud Light: the groomer of beers.”
— Derek Hunter (@derekahunter) April 2, 2023
American singer-songwriter Kid Rock posted a now-viral video of him shooting several cases of Bud Light while calling for a boycott of the product.
In a Twitter thread, online pundit James Lindsay pointed out that Anheuser-Busch has long been engaged in advocacy for LGBT issues and causes and has touted its perfect scores on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index for years, which benchmarks “corporate policies, practices and benefits pertinent to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer employees.”
Despite the controversy, Mulvaney still garnered support from many.
One Instagram user, Erica Shadeh, commented, “I don’t even drink Budlight, but I may just have to start – what is wrong with big brands supporting the LGBTQ+ community? They need all the support with all the hate in the world.”
Ed Krassenstein took to Twitter, saying, “To all of you far-right snowflakes who now refuse to drink Anheuser-Busch products like Budweiser or Bud Light now that they appear to support transgender star Dylan Mulvaney, good luck finding another beer.”
Addressing the controversy, Anheuser-Busch stood by its decision to partner with Mulvaney.
“Anheuser-Busch works with hundreds of influencers across our brands as one of many ways to authentically connect with audiences across various demographics and passion points,” the company told Fox News.
“From time to time, we produce unique commemorative cans for fans and for brand influencers, like Dylan Mulvaney. This commemorative can was a gift to celebrate a personal milestone and is not for sale to the general public.”
The “personal milestone” referenced the one-year mark of Mulvaney’s gender transition.
This is not the first time Bud Light has waded into social and cultural issues. In 2016, the brand partnered with comedians Amy Schumer and Seth Rogen for an ad campaign that played on the national political conversation.
“Women don’t get paid as much as men, and that is wrong,” Rogen says in the ad.
“Bud Light proudly supports equal pay,” Schumer adds.
Soon after, Bud Light abruptly pulled the Schumer/Rogen campaign and severed ties with the two, citing “slumping sales” in the United States.
Thomas Donohoe, author of “The CEO’s Digital Marketing Playbook,” told Market Watch that, while Bud Light’s decision may cause the company to lose customers in the short term, it will likely be viewed as a “smart move” years from now.
On the current backlash, Donohoe said, “In 20 years, concerns like this are going to be laughed at.”