Bud Light, once America’s favorite beer, is facing an “unbelievable boycott” from customers who are turned off by its controversial partnership with transgender activist Dylan Mulvaney.
According to data cited by Beer Business Daily, sales volumes of Bud Light for the week ending May 13 plummeted 28.4%, extending a downward trend that began in early April when Mulvaney debuted her sponsorship deal with the brand on Instagram.
The backlash was swift and fierce, especially from conservatives who had previously targeted Mulvaney – best known for her “Days of Girlhood” TikTok series – for her outspoken advocacy for transgender rights.
“Nobody imagined it would go on this long,” said Harry Schuhmacher, editor and publisher of Beer Business Daily. “It seems random – it struck a nerve. I’ve never seen anything to compare it to, in all of the [consumer packaged goods] industry. It’s a real shock.”
Schuhmacher said the controversy has alienated not only conservative customers, but also apolitical ones who simply don’t want to be drawn into another debate about values.
“Most people don’t care about this issue and don’t want to get roped into a conversation,” he said. “Therefore they’re not going to buy the beer.”
Bud Light’s parent company, Anheuser-Busch InBev, did not respond to a request for comment. The company has placed its marketing chief Alissa Heinerscheid and her boss Daniel Blake on leave amid the crisis, multiple news outlets have reported.
The story has only continued to grow amid the wider national debate over civil rights for transgender people, one that has seen multiple states pass laws restricting gender-affirming medical care and barring other resources from the trans community.
Schuhmacher said Bud Light had previously partnered with the LGBTQ+ community and Mulvaney on another campaign, and that the current debacle was simply a matter of bad luck.
“It just seems like an unlucky draw,” he said. “The timing and the zeitgeist and the divided environment all combined to create this unbelievable boycott that nobody could have anticipated.”
Anson Frericks, former president of sales and distribution for Anheuser-Busch, said Bud Light likely faced a “long, hot, dry summer” as customers switch to other brands.
“I think that you’re going to see sales continue to be down because customers, it’s too easy for them to switch to other brands, and they’re seeing the impact of their results,” he said.
Frericks said Bud Light could win back its customers by staying out of politics.
“If they want those customers back, they have an easy decision that they can make, which is saying, ‘We want Bud Light customers back, therefore Bud Light is not going to get involved with political issues moving forward,’” he said.
- Bud Light CEO, influencer Dylan Mulvaney speak out after sponsorship fallout | NBC News | May 5, 2023
- Bud Light faces ‘unbelievable boycott’ from customers after controversial partnership | The Daily Wire | May 23, 2023
- Bud Light’s Mulvaney debacle shows why brands should stay out of politics | Forbes | May 22, 2023