Bud Light pours plummet after Dylan Mulvaney backlash

Bud Light pours plummeted in thousands of bars and restaurants after Dylan Mulvaney backlash – with nearly 3,000 locations serving 6% less of the beer

  • In the week ending April 15, Bud Light’s sales dropped 17 percent compared to the same week a year ago – and fewer people are also ordering the beer in bars
  • The drop comes after the suds’ partnership with Dylan Mulvaney 

The number of people ordering Bud Lights at bars and restaurants across the country have plummeted in the weeks following the company’s partnering with Dylan Mulvaney.

Between early to mid-April, Bud Light’s pours were down 6 percent at 3,000 locations, according to research by tech company BeerBoard. 

In comparison, between March 18 to April 1 – the two weeks before the transgender influencer partnered with the beer company – Bud Light had actually outperformed in its category by 15 percent.  

On April 1, transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney posted a video of herself cracking open a Bud Light on her Instagram page. She showed off a can with her face on it that Bud Light sent her – one of many corporate freebies she gets and shares with her millions of followers.

In the six days that followed, Anheuser-Busch lost more than $6billion in market capitalization. 

According to BeerBoard’s data, Bud Light has dropped from third to fourth in overall rate of sales during April 2 to April 15.  

Bud Light has long been America’s best-selling beer. But its US sales are down 2 percent so far this year, part of a long-running decline as younger consumers flock to sparking seltzers and other drinks, according to Bump Williams Consulting. 

Cans of Bud Light beer are seen before a baseball game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Seattle Mariners, Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Mulvaney (left) was sent a personalized beer can  to mark 365 days since she transitioned. Mulvaney documented her journey on TikTok and gained millions of online followers

Mulvaney, 26, announced the partnership in a series of videos posted to social media at the start of April 2023

Those sales declines accelerated rapidly in April. In the week ending April 15, Bud Light’s sales dropped 17 percent compared to the same week a year ago. 

Meanwhile, rivals Miller Lite and Coors Lite both saw their sales jump more than 17 percent. 

Bud Light’s partnership with Mulvaney angered some customers and hurt sales, while the brand´s lack of support for the influencer infuriated the very people it was trying to reach.

Three days after Mulvaney´s post, Kid Rock posted a video of himself shooting cases of Bud Light. Shares of Bud Light´s parent, AB InBev, temporarily plunged and the company issued a terse statement in response to the controversy.

This week, Anheuser-Busch – AB InBev´s U.S. subsidiary – confirmed that Alissa Heinerscheid, its vice president of marketing, and her boss, Daniel Blake, are taking a leave of absence. 

The company won´t say when they will return or whether they´re being paid.

For some, the partnership went too far at a time when transgender issues – including gender-affirming health care and participation in sports – are a divisive topic in state legislatures.

‘Whether the issue is trans people or anything else, the majority of consumers are pretty vocal about the fact they don´t want brands lecturing them or stuffing politics or social issues down their throat,’ said John Frigo, the head of digital marketing for Best Price Nutrition. ‘If you sell beer, just make beer and leave it at that.’

Mulvaney’s Bud Light advert and partnership has been divisive across the US

But others – including Heinerscheid herself – say reaching out to younger and more diverse consumers is crucial. 

According to a 2021 Gallup poll, 21 percent of people in Generation Z identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, compared to 3 percent of Baby Boomers. Gallup has also found that younger consumers are the most likely to want brands to promote diversity and take a stand on social issues.

‘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 decline for a very 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 said last month in an episode of Apple´s ‘Make Yourself at Home’ podcast.

Marketing experts say it’s possible Bud Light’s experience will cause other brands to rethink using transgender people in their advertising. 

Joanna Schwartz, a professor at Georgia College and State University who teaches a course on LGBTQ+ marketing, said companies will still want to reach transgender consumers and their supporters, but might shift to social media and more targeted ads.

‘They´re walking an extremely fine line. They want to appeal to everyone, but that includes people who don´t like each other,’ Schwartz said of Bud Light.

Still, Schwartz said, there are plenty of brands that have successfully featured transgender or non-binary people in their marketing. 

Whitworth issued a public statement two weeks into the controversy

Thomas Murphy, an associate professor of branding at Clark University, said he tells brands that want to be inclusive to run ads with real people who can talk about the company´s efforts.

‘They can have employees who say, `I love Bud Light. I have worked here for 20 years, there are inclusive programs and I came here because I wanted a company that would embrace me,´’ he said. ‘Who couldn´t see and hear that person and say, `What a great company’?’

On April 14, CEO Brendan Whitworth delivered an apology.

‘We never intended to be part of a discussion that divides people. We are in the business of bringing people together over a beer,’ he said in a statement.

He added: ‘My time serving this country taught me the importance of accountability and the values upon which America was founded: freedom, hard work and respect from one another.’

‘I care deeply about this country, this company, our brands and our partners,’ he added. 

‘I spend much of my time traveling across America, listening to and learning from our customers, distributors and others. Moving forward I will continue to work tirelessly to bring great beers to consumers across our nation.’

The Bud Light controversy isn’t the only one for Mulvaney. Some are calling for boycotts of makeup producer Maybelline after Mulvaney posted a video as a brand ambassador. 

‘Hey [Maybelline] Women have fought for years to get to where we are, women’s rights are being taking back by these men, and you support it. Please all of us born women let’s [boycottmaybelline],’ one Twitter user posted.  

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