Bud Light boss in hot water over transgender storm
A sponsorship deal with transgender star Dylan Mulvaney has led to a boycott of Bud Light by conservative Americans. Now, its CEO has seemingly angered left-wingers by apologising for the partnership…
Brendan Whitworth, CEO of Bud Light parent company AB InBev, said in a statement on Friday 14 April that his intention was never “to divide Americans” over an advertising partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney.
“We never intended to be part of a discussion that divides people,” Whitworth said. “We are in the business of bringing people together over a beer.”
Bud Light sponsored a post that Mulvaney published on her Instagram page celebrating a year since her transition. The brand issued her with a specially designed beer can featuring her face to mark the milestone.
Since the post went live, right-wing Americans have been filmed smashing and shooting cans of Bud Light in protest at the company’s support of transgender rights. Among those were US musician Kid Rock, who filmed himself shooting a stash of beer cans with a sub-machine gun, and country star Travis Tritt, who announced that he would no longer include Bud Light in his tour rider.
Senator Marsha Blackburn and Caitlyn Jenner have also spoken out against the Mulvaney partnership, and guitarist Ted Nugent condemned the hook-up as “a middle finger to Bud Light’s core consumer demographic.”
Initially, beer boss Whitworth responded to the boycott by saying that: “From time to time we produce unique commemorative cans for fans and for brand influencers, like Dylan Mulvaney. This commemorative can was a gift to celebrate a personal milestone and is not for sale to the general public.”
However, he went on to promise that he “cared deeply” about the country and planned to “spend much of my time traveling across America, listening to and learning from our customers, distributors and others.”
This has been interpreted by some as a thinly-veiled apology in an attempt to appease right-wing beer drinkers, with one critic calling his words “an epic leadership fail”.
“Pathetic statement from @AnheuserBusch CEO,” wrote @KaivanShroff on Twitter.
“To be clear they sent a trans influencer personalized cans of Bud Light. That’s not ‘dividing’ people. Caving to these hateful bigots is what divides our country. Shame on you, Brendan Whitworth.”
Advertising expert Ben Schott wrote in his Bloomberg Opinion column that: “Bud Light actively sought out a controversial influencer in a dangerously polarized space, with neither the wisdom to plan for a backlash nor the bravery to stand by its partner.”
A spokesperson for AB InBev had previously said that “Anheuser-Busch works with hundreds of influencers across our brands as one of many ways to authentically connect with audiences across various demographics.”
The full statement, issued on Twitter can be read below:
Alissa Heinerscheid, vice president of marketing for Bud Light, said in a podcast interview before the boycott that the beer brand was “in decline” and has been “for a really long time.”
She said that the brand needed to update its “fratty” and “out of touch” persona by upping its inclusivity, adding: “If we do not attract young drinkers to come and drink this brand, there will be no future for Bud Light.”
Bud Light has been further accused of throwing Heinerscheid under the bus and attempting to distance themselves from her in the wake of the storm. Unnamed but ‘senior’ sources at Bud Light suggested they knew nothing about the “woke” marketing campaign.
Investment website Seeking Alpha has said that the stock price of AB InBev was experiencing “some volatility” as a result of the controversy, but predicted that the effects would not be long-term.