Bud Light’s Sponsorship With Trans Star Dylan Mulvaney Sparks Backlash – Variety:

Beer conglomerate Anheuser-Busch has found itself at the center of a controversial debate surrounding its partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney, who was recently recruited to promote the brand’s March Madness contest.

The conversation escalated into a highly publicized online protest when Kid Rock posted a video of himself shooting three cases of Bud Light with an assault rifle — all while sporting a MAGA hat. “Fuck Bud Light and fuck Anheuser-Busch,” he declared in the video, which now has over 50,000 re-tweets and 200,000 likes.

If I’m Anheuser-Busch InBev (hereafter InBev), I’m a lot more concerned about those 50,000 re-tweets and 200,000 likes than I am about Kid Rock. 

The most interesting thing to me, and I’m no beer drinker so my interest is somewhat limited from the outset, is that the Bud Light marketing plays entirely against who we typically think as a Bud Light drinker and is likely—though we don’t have the results yet—a sales disaster.

A National Media Research Planning and Placement poll of 2012 showed Bud Light drinkers skewing GOP and with low voter turnout. (If you’re running for election, they’re the wrong folks to target.) (See https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/wp/2014/01/08/what-your-beer-says-about-your-politics-in-one-chart/). Maybe this demographic has changed in the last 10 years? Surely, InBev would know. From the outside though, this appears like they’ve just seriously upset their most loyal customers.

Bud Light is the most popular beer in America despite having an “Awful” rating from BeerAdvocate. According to Beer Marketer’s Insights, Anheuser-Busch InBev shipped 27.2 million barrels in 2019 and it had a 13.24% marketshare that year—more than twice of second place Coors Light. That share slumped to 12.69% in 2022 amid a broader decline of traditional brands in favor of craft beers, but whatever the case (no pun intended), Bud Light remains a market leader.

Market leaders aren’t generally looking to go political. There’s no reason to be “edgy” if you’re number one. So why this? One guess: New creative agencies. Bud Light dropped Widen + Kennedy last year in favor of Anomaly and The Martin Agency. Maybe the new guys thought they needed to make a splash? (https://www.marketingdive.com/news/bud-light-creative-agency-strategy-seltzer/630331/)

According to Newsweek (not the greatest of sources, I admit), Bud Light has not posted to Facebook since March 30 (confirmed), Instagram since April 1, or Twitter since April 2. I’m inferring from this that they’re in a pickle. They can’t offer much of a defense without inflaming most brand loyalists further and they can’t backtrack without alienating another sizable percentage of their drinkers.

Ultimately, I suspect this will prove another cautionary tale about why companies should not go political. Minimally, it’s bad marketing. Maximally, sales will crater. This is the most interested I’ve been in Bud Light in years, but I guarantee you that won’t lead to increased sales.