Beer giant Anheuser-Busch and its Bud Light brand are facing backlash from some consumers after featuring transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney in two Instagram posts earlier this month. The posts sparked fury from some on the right and hurt sales, with the pouring of Bud Light declining in bars and restaurants in early April, according to BeerBoard. Sales of Bud Light also fell 17% in the week ended April 15 compared to the same week in 2022, according to an analysis of NIQ data compiled by Bump Williams Consulting. Meanwhile, sales of rival beers Coors Light and Miller Lite grew nearly 18% each in the same period.
The Mulvaney Campaign
The brewing giant met with wholesalers at the National Beer Wholesalers Association Legislative conference to help “dispel potential retailer misconception” about the Mulvaney campaign, according to the industry newsletter Beer Business Daily. Anheuser-Busch sought to correct “misinformation” and “confusion” about the can be given to Mulvaney, reiterating that it wasn’t a formal campaign or advertisement. The single can given to Mulvaney was not for sale to the general public.
Mixed feelings among distributors
While some distributors expressed frustration at the impact the controversy had on their business, several are reportedly waiting for the storm to pass, as similar blow-ups have in the past. Texas-based Del Papa Distributing issued a statement of support earlier this week, criticizing the social media posts but stating that Anheuser-Busch wasn’t trying to make a political statement with them.
Making changes at the top
Anheuser-Busch has made leadership changes in response to the controversy, including placing two Bud Light executives on leave. The company has a history of appealing to LGBTQ+ drinkers, releasing beer in rainbow bottles for Pride Month, and partnering with LGBTQ+ support organizations. Bud Light used this year’s Super Bowl to introduce a “new era” for the brand, aimed at attracting younger drinkers.
The controversy surrounding Bud Light’s Mulvaney campaign highlights the challenges facing brands as they attempt to be more inclusive and appeal to younger consumers while also facing a potential backlash from more conservative segments of society. However, with several wholesalers sticking by the brand and sales likely to rebound, it remains to be seen if the controversy will have any lasting impact on Bud Light’s reputation or bottom line.