Metro Weekly

Bud Light Boycott Cost Company $1.4 Billion in Sales

The boycott of Bud Light over a promotion featuring a transgender influencer cost Bud's parent company a significant amount of lost sales.

Illustration by Todd Franson

The parent company of Bud Light may have lost as much as $1.4 billion in sales due to a boycott against the once-popular beer brand.

The boycott was mounted after the company partnered with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney for an online promotion last year.

Mulvaney appeared in a TikTok video highlighting Bud Light’s “March Madness” promotion during the annual NCAA Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournament.

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

As part of that promotion, the company also sent Mulvaney a commemorative can with a picture of her face on the exterior, celebrating the first anniversary of her “Days of Girlhood” video series documenting her gender transition.

The can did not go on sale to the public. Still, many conservatives and anti-transgender advocates took offense at what they saw as Mulvaney’s caricature of womanhood, as well as the idea of transgender visibility, and called for boycotts not only of Bud Light, but other products of Bud’s parent company, Anheuser-Busch InBev.

Anheuser-Busch InBev reported record revenues for 2023 but said its “full growth potential was constrained” by the decline of sales in the United States, where the boycott was the strongest.

In total, organic revenue in North America decreased by $1.4 billion due to a decline in beer sales, reports CNN.

As a result, Mexican beer Model Especial dethroned Bud Light as the United States’ top-selling beer.

From May through February, Bud Light recovered only 1.2 percentage points of lost market share, CEO Michael Doukeris told investors on Thursday. Doukeris said the pace of recovery is picking up — but only by a 0.1 or 0.2 percentage points every three to four weeks. 

“It’s not at the fast pace that we were expecting or that we’ve been working for. But nevertheless, progress is in place,” he told investors.

Some analysts were not impressed with Doukeris’s report.

“In the U.S., performance remains very underwhelming with revenue down at double-digit rates as the group lost market share,” said Aarin Chiekrie, an equity analyst at online investing platform Hargreaves Lansdown.

The boycott against Bud Light was weaponized by the political Right, who saw its success as a model they could use to harm the bottom line of companies that embraced “woke” or left-wing social agendas.

Since Bud Light, other boycotts have been lodged against Target for selling Pride-themed merchandise, and proposed against brands like LEGO and even the once-conservative darling Chick-fil-A for actions perceived to be supportive of the LGBTQ community. 

Bud Light also faced criticism from the political Left and LGBTQ community for failing to defend the promotion or support Mulvaney after the backlash.

Mulvaney has said she felt the company abandoned her for political expediency. In response, some smaller LGBTQ bars mounted their own boycott, refusing to sell Anheuser-Busch products.

Since the controversy, Bud Light has sought to rehabilitate its image by shifting toward more patriotic TV advertising focusing on “the American spirit” and incorporating the company’s iconic Clydesdale horses.

Interestingly, former President Donald Trump has suggested that Republicans end their boycott of the beer brand, calling the Mulvaney marketing gimmick a “mistake of epic proportions” but saying the company “perhaps deserves a second chance.”

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