The Bud Light Boycott Explained: Dylan Mulvaney Controversy

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Bud Light has endured months of controversy after its promotion with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney sparked a backlash from customers and celebrities.

The issue has spiralled out of control for what used to be America’s best selling beer brand with angry customers – and singer Kid Rock – shooting Bud light cans in protest and calling for a boycott of Bud Light and other Anheuser-Busch beer brands.

It’s spawned a slew of memes poking fun at Bud Light over the promotion, which was thought to be an attempt to attract young drinkers to the brand.

The controversy caused a dip in sales for Bud Light and even impacted parent company Anheuser Busch’s stock price.

Let’s go through how the issue unfolded and what it tells us about divisions in the US today on trans issues.

Bud Light Cans Promotion with Transgender Influencer Dylan Mulvaney

The catalyst for the controversy was a promotion that began, ironically, on April 1 when Ms Mulvaney posted a video to her 1.8m followers on Tik Tok promoting Bud Light which mentioned the company had sent her a personalised can with her face on it to celebrate her first year post transition.

The assumed goal of the promotion was to appeal to younger audiences and boost the brand’s appeal in this segment.

You don’t have to have had too many Bud Lights to realise that this is a beer that appeals largely to middle America, and within its customer base are many folk who are opposed to many of the goals of trans activists.

Although the promotion was clearly not a match made in heaven, Bud Light clearly didn’t anticipate the depth of ill feeling it would create with right-wing media, beer drinkers and conservatives.

Bud Light Trans Drama: What Happened Next?

Soon after the release of the video, there was criticism from a range of conservative voices including Republican law makers, country music stars and Fox News pundits.

Kid Rock filmed himself shooting cases of Bud Light with a machine gun while wearing a MAGA hat and yelling “F^ck Bud Light and F^ck Anheuser-Busch.

Country singer Travis Tritt joined Kid Rock and called for a boycott, along with conservative rocker Ted Nugent.

On the other hand, country music star Garth Brooks backed the promotion of inclusiveness and diversity and said he would keep selling Bud Light in his bar.

The campaign also caused division at a community level with videos on TikTok and Twitter of people smashing, throwing away, and driving over Bud Light bottles.

Supporters of the campaign weighed in accusing critics of transphobia and asking why drinkers felt so threatened by a trans woman posting a video about a beer.

The controversy even reached the White House with Biden administration press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre condemning bomb threats made against several Anheuser-Busch factories in response and supporting trans people.

“When a transgender American posts a video about a brand of beer they enjoy and it leads to bomb threats, it’s clear that level of violence and vitriol against transgender Americans has to stop,” Jean-Pierre said during her daily press briefing.

What about the Impact Of the Boycott on Bud Light Sales?

The controversy and resulting boycott had an immediate impact on Bud Light beer sales with estimates that sales fell by between 11 and 20% in the month after the promotion’s release. Bud Light lost its status as the top selling beer in the US in May to Modelo Especial.

The dip in sales of Bud Light also appear to affect the stock price of AB InBev (the global giant that own’s Bud Light parent company Anheuser Busch) which suffered a 20% fall. Soon after Anheuser-Busch InBev shares recovered some of their value, although some analysts downgraded their ratings on the stock.

It remains to be seen if Bud Light’s sales recover sufficiently for it to regain its crown as the best selling beer in the US or if other beer brands such as Miller Lite or Coors Light will seize its position.

How Have Bud Light and Bud Light’s Parent Company Anheuser Busch Responded?

Bud Light and Anheuser-Busch acted swiftly to try to distance themselves from the uproar over the Mulvaney video, which was tied to the brand’s March Madness promotion.

Two marketing executives from the company were placed on leave with the company dismissing rumors its entire marketing team had been let go.

Anheuser-Busch CEO Brendan Whitworth lamented Bud Light’s marketing misstep, saying the brand “never intended to be part of a discussion that divides people” in an apology that also drew criticism from LGBTQ organizations. 

The response, though, risked being one that really pleased no one with some bars aligned with the LGBTQ+ community ceasing sales of Bud Light and other Anheuser-Busch InBev products to punish the company for not standing by the collaboration.

Since then, Bud Light has doubled down on tacking back towards the mainstream released a new advertisement designed to distance itself from the trans influencer.

The ad features beachgoers, anglers and cookout attendees drinking Bud Light beer in the great outdoors battling different weather conditions and a series of mishaps to the tune of ’70s disco hit “Good Times” by Chic. The actors in the ad are cast to look like average everyday Americans.

How Has Dylan Mulvaney Responded to the Bud Light Backlash?

The trans influencer addressed the controversy obliquely in a video post on TikTok that called for tolerance over gender identity without mentioning Bud Light by name.

“What I’m struggling with most is that I grew up in a conservative family, and I’m extremely privileged because they still love me very much. And I grew up in the church, and I still have my faith, which I am really trying to hold onto right now,” Mulvaney said. “But I’ve always tried to love everyone, you know, even the people who make it really, really hard. And I think it’s okay to be frustrated with someone or confused, but what I’m struggling to understand is the need to dehumanize and to be cruel. I just, I don’t think that’s right. Dehumanization has never fixed anything in history, ever.”

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Rick Wallace is the owner of The Beer Babe and a keen beer drinker. He leaves the bulk of the writing on the site to his expert team, but sometimes pens an article of two. He is a fan of trying new pale ales, IPAs and XPAs whenever he can.