‘Nobody imagined it would go on this long’: Bud Light sales continue to plummet over Mulvaney backlash
The controversy, now nearing its third month, has turned off a broader customer group than just those who characterize themselves as conservatives.
Sales of Bud Light continue to plummet, reflecting ongoing backlash to the brand’s decision to hire transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney as a spokesperson.
According to data cited by the beverage industry trade publication Beer Business Daily, sales volumes of Bud Light for the week ending May 13 sank 28.4%, extending a downward trend from the 27.7% decline seen the week before.
At a time of profound cultural and political division in the U.S., light beer drinkers simply don’t want to be drawn into another debate about values, said Beer Business Daily editor and publisher Harry Schuhmacher.
“Most people don’t care about this issue and don’t want to get roped into a conversation,” Schuhmacher said. “Therefore they’re not going to buy the beer.”
Given the wide array of choices available to beer drinkers, it’s easy to switch brands, he said.
A spokesperson for Anheuser-Busch InBev, Bud Light’s parent company, did not respond to a request for comment.
Mulvaney debuted her partnership with Bud Light the weekend of the NCAA Basketball Men’s and Women’s National Championship in early April. She shared a sponsored post on her Instagram account to her then-1.2 million followers promoting Bud Light’s March Madness contest.
The social media backlash from conservatives, many of whom had previously targeted Mulvaney — best known for her “Days of Girlhood” TikTok series — was swift.
Initially, Bud Light’s response was to ignore the criticism, saying Mulvaney was simply one of hundreds of influencers it worked with. But as the crisis snowballed, it moved to place Alissa Heinerscheid — the first woman ever in charge of Bud Light’s marketing — and her boss Daniel Blake on leave, 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.
AB InBev had previously partnered with the LGBTQ+ community, and had also worked with Mulvaney on another campaign, Schuhmacher said.
The hit to Bud Light, he said, is simply a matter of wrong place and wrong time.
“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.”
AB InBev shares have fallen more than 10% since Mulvaney’s social media post went live. In a note to clients published Tuesday, JPMorgan analysts said that even if the decline in Bud Light sales stabilizes, “We believe there is a subset [of] American consumers who will not drink Bud Light for the foreseeable future.”
“Nobody imagined it would go on this long,” Schuhmacher said. He continued: “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.”