The boycott of Bud Light following an ad campaign featuring transgender activist Dylan Mulvaney appears to be having an impact, industry analysts say.
“This boycott seems to have more legs than most,” Justin Kendall, editor of beer industry trade publication Brewbound, told the New York Post on Tuesday. “It started out as a conversation on social media and has breached into mainstream media.”
The transgender activist, who was born male, revealed earlier this month that Bud Light featured him on its can. A video featured Mulvaney in a bathtub drinking a Bud Light beer as part of the ad campaign, drawing significant backlash.
Country music singer John Rich said that he pulled cases of the popular beer from his bar as part of a boycott against Bud Light’s parent, Anheuser-Busch, which also produces Budweiser. Rock star Kid Rock also posted a video of himself shooting up cases of the beer.
“The customers decide. Customers are king,” Rich told Fox News host Tucker Carlson. “I own a bar in downtown Nashville called Redneck Riviera. Our number-one selling beer up until a few days ago was what? Bud Light. We got cases and cases and cases of it sitting back there. But in the past several days, you’re hard-pressed to find anyone ordering one. So as a business owner, I go, hey if you aren’t ordering it, we got to put something else in here. At the end of the day, that’s capitalism. That’s how it works.”
Beer Business Daily editor and publisher Harry Schuhmacher gave a more dire assessment. He said that distributors in some rural areas are “spooked” by the backlash, noting that some of the distributors rely on Bud Light sales to keep afloat.
“This is probably the biggest controversy we’ve seen in a long time,” Schuhmacher told Fox News. “There was a little bit of worry, especially in the South and the Midwest and especially in rural areas where retailers were reporting the, you know, their customers weren’t happy with Bud Light and some retailers themselves weren’t happy with Bud Light.”
Referring to the impact on distributors’ business, some companies “tend to be smaller and more reliant on the Anheuser-Busch brands to pay their bills,” he said. “And so, yeah, there is some concern about it.”
The Epoch Times has contacted Anheuser-Busch, which is owned by Netherlands-based AB Inbev, for comment.
Anheuser-Busch has told news outlets that “this commemorative can was a gift to celebrate a personal milestone and is not for sale to the general public,” adding, “Anheuser-Busch works with hundreds of influencers across our brands as one of many ways to authentically connect with audiences across various demographics. From time to time we produce unique commemorative cans for fans and for brand influencers, like Dylan Mulvaney.”
The controversy was further inflamed after a video showed Bud Light’s vice president of marketing, Alissa Heinerscheid, speaking about how she wanted to update the “fratty” and “out of touch” humor of prior Bud Light ad campaigns. On social media, some conservative critics instead accused Heinerscheid of being out of touch with Bud Light’s target demographic.
“I’m a businesswoman, I had a really clear job to do when I took over Bud Light, and it was ‘this brand is in decline, it’s been in a decline for a really long time, and if we do not attract young drinkers to come and drink this brand there will be no future for Bud Light,’” Heinerscheid remarked in an interview with “Make Yourself at Home” on March 30.
But her public comments did not do Bud Light any favors, said a branding expert, Michael Stone.
“[Heinerscheid] didn’t need to go that far and trash the prior campaigns,” Stone, chairman of Beanstalk Group, told the New York Post. “She could have said we are moving on to reach the demographic we want to reach and to communicate a different message.”
The beer company “knew there would be backlash and they were stepping in an area where there is a great political divide in America and among their own customers,” Stone said, suggesting that the ad campaign might merely be an attempt to draw attention to the beer company. “They did a ton of research [likely showing that] they’d be supported by some and offend others.”