Metro Weekly

Bud Light Sales Plunge As Anti-Trans Backlash Continues

Bud Light continues to experience backlash from conservatives for partnering with transgender TikTok influencer Dylan Mulvaney.

Dylan Mulvaney – Photos: Instagram

Sales of Bud Light have continued to drop as backlash from the brand’s more conservative customers continues following the company’s decision to partner with transgender TikTok influencer Dylan Mulvaney for a promotional video back in March.

In the week ending April 22, the brand’s in-store sales dropped more than 26%, according to figures from Bump Williams Consulting, a firm specializing in the alcoholic beverage industry. In the week prior, sales of Bud Light dropped 21% after dropping 11% the week before that.

While Bud Light currently remains the bestselling beer in America, generating more than $4.8 billion in sales in 2022 — ahead of second-place Modelo Especial, at $3.75 billion, and Michelob Ultra, at $3.3 billion — some observers, including beverage expert Bump Wiliams, have begun to fear that if sales continue to drop heading into the summer months, Modelo could eventually replace Bud Light as the nation’s top-selling beer.

Already, sales of Bud Light are off 8% for the year. 

The backlash against Bud Light stems from its decision to partner with Mulvaney for a promotional campaign, in which the actress and singer appeared in a TikTok video, clad in black gown and gloves, drinking a Bud Light, as part of a “March Madness” promotion during the annual NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournament.

Bud Light sent Mulvaney a commemorative can with a picture of Mulvaney’s face on the exterior, celebrating the first anniversary of her “Days of Girlhood” video series documenting her gender transition.

Mulvaney also appeared in an online ad where she sat in a bubble bath, clad in a bathing suit, while sipping Bud Light.

Even though the commemorative gift can was never made available for sale to the public, the mere use of a transgender spokesperson offended many conservatives, including, apparently, a significant chunk of Bud Light’s loyal consumer base.

An informal boycott of Bud Light — and of any products produced by its parent company, Anheuser-Busch — ensued, with some complaining that the company was pushing an “agenda” of “indoctrination” by having a transgender person featured prominently in a marketing campaign. Others complained that Mulvaney’s gender identity should not be celebrated because she is not a biological female.

Several celebrities, including country singer Travis Tritt, cut ties with Anheuser-Busch products, while Kid Rock and model and influencer Bri Teresi both posted videos of them shooting cases of Bud Light beer with semi-automatic rifles.  

According to Bump Williams, Bud Light brand manager Alissa Gordon Heinerscheid — one of two employees placed on leave following the fallout from the partnership with Mulvaney — attempted to appeal to a younger, more politically progressive market but ended up offending more conservative longtime drinkers by saying she was trying to expand the brand had a “fratty, kind of out-of-touch humor.”

“Her big miss was I don’t think she understood who the core Bud Light shopper was,” Williams told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “When she came out with her comments, they were deemed as being derogatory, insulting and juvenile. And the Bud Light drinkers said ‘Enough of that.'”

Williams says the drop in sales is hurting beer distributors by costing them millions of dollars daily. He recommends that Anheuser-Busch cooperate with beer distributors to find a way to win back longtime consumers and apologize to its conservative customer base for enlisting Mulvaney in the marketing campaign.

Absent that, sales are likely to continue to plummet, Williams says. 

While it’s unclear how long the boycott of Anheuser-Busch products will last, the company’s stock hasn’t performed as poorly, having only fallen about 3% from last month, suggesting Wall Street isn’t as worried about a prolonged backlash against the company.

Bud Light is also receiving backlash from the LGBTQ community and its allies — who were already skeptical of Anheuser-Busch’s commitment to LGBTQ issues, citing the company’s past donations to anti-LGBTQ politicians — for what they see as the company’s attempt to backtrack on the Mulvaney campaign.

Brendan Whitworth, the CEO of Anheuser-Busch, the parent company of Bud Light, issued a tepid statement seeming to apologize to the beer company’s customers for any upset caused by partnering with Mulvaney. “We never intended to be part of a discussion that divides people,” he said.

But the apology was slammed for lacking substance, particularly by conservatives who were angry the company didn’t fully denounce Mulvaney and distance itself from attempts to appeal to progressive consumers. 

Jared Watson, an assistant professor of marketing at New York University, told CNN that the company should have stood by Mulvaney, which could have resulted in better brand loyalty from progressives and offset some of the decline in sales.

But when it failed to defend Mulvaney after anti-transgender forces targeted her, its attempts at damage control undermined its attempt to expand its consumer base.

“They did this half-step backwards, which doesn’t satisfy their existing market,” Watson said, noting, “this [progressive] market they’re trying to appeal to … sees this as an inauthentic move. And so [Bud Light ended up] in a position where they’ve satisfied nobody.”

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