Transgender advert for Bud Light sparks massive backlash and beer shortages in US

When the marketing department for Bud Light, America’s best-selling beer, recently partnered with a transgender influencer called Dylan Mulvaney, little did the corporate bosses know that they were about to unleash a storm that would lead to a steep decline in sales.

Mulvaney, best known for chronicling her transition on TikTok over the last two years, posted a picture of herself with a specially commissioned can of Bud Light with her photo on it, to mark a college basketball tournament called March Madness.

Madness is a fairly accurate description of what ensued.

Conservative and right-leaning personalities took to social media to vent their anger with “Transheuser Busch”, as they dubbed Anheuser-Busch, which owns the beer brand.

First out of the trap was the 52 year-old singer Kid Rock, who posted a video of him shooting up a stack of Bud Light cases.

Within hours, social media was awash with similar anti-Bud videos of people dumping slabs of Bud Light into bins, and thrashing supermarket shelves where the beer was stacked high.

Calls for a boycott of the beer rang out across social media, as detractors dismissed it and its parent company as “woke”.

As a result, sales of Bud Light have plummeted by 30pc over the past 10 weeks according to some US media reports.

Anheuser Busch, meanwhile, has started to buy back stocks of the beer from bars, restaurants and off-licenses that are struggling to shift it in the aftermath of the backlash.

The company has seen $15.7bn wiped off its market value, while rivals Molson Coors has picked up some of that, rising $2.2bn.

The very notion that somebody would boycott a beer because it was also being marketed to a transgender or LGBT+ demographic might seem ludicrous. But this is USA 2023, a country that has become increasingly polarised over the last 10 years.

Although by no means new, the war on woke is nonetheless a disturbing trend for brands.

Over the past few years, brands like Nike, Keurig, Carharrt, the NFL, United Airlines, Amazon and Disney have all been targeted for their alleged wokeness, because of their support for a wide range of initiatives – ranging from diversity and inclusion, gender and LGBT+ issues, right through to vaccinations, the use of face-masks and matters relating to sustainability.

None of these brands, however, have experienced the same kind of backlash as Bud Light has.

Huge swathes of the US economy – including big tech, healthcare, green energy companies, liberal media and entertainment brands, many schools and third level colleges in Republican states, big pharma, and fund managers that invest in green stocks – have at some stage invoked the ire of this growing and angry conservative cohort.

As the US once again heads into a presidential election cycle, the war on woke has undoubtedly gathered new momentum.

Having already hijacked, subverted and weaponised its original meaning, it has become a dog whistle intended to divide – while at the same time uniting the conservative right under a single four-letter word that crystallises whatever anger or outrage they have towards anybody who disagrees with them.

The war on woke has many cheerleaders, from Elon Musk to Tucker Carlson, right through to presidential hopefuls Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump.

DeSantis, who is currently going head-to-head with Disney, has waged his own brand of war on woke companies, having told a recent rally of supporters that “we will never surrender to the woke mob – and Florida is where woke goes to die”.

While brands will already have taken note of these trends, I think it’s safe to say it’s going to be a long 18 months.

A campaign paws

The Dublin-based agency F&B Huskies (formerly In the Company of Huskies) has rolled out a new campaign for Allianz Insurance to promote its pet insurance offering.

The campaign is being rolled out in print, digital and OOH.

Called ‘Pawscription’, the campaign aims to reframe the value pets hold for their owners – and drive home the message that pet insurance doesn’t just benefit the pet, it benefits the owner too.

Winner alright

Folk Wunderman Thompson has retained the creative account for Horse Racing Ireland (HRI), the organisation responsible for the development of Ireland’s horse racing and breeding industries which are worth around €2.4bn to the Irish economy each year.

The agency has worked on a number of high-profile advertising campaigns for HRI over the past few years, including its most recent one which was called ‘A proper day out’.

Get ahead of the day with the morning headlines at 7.30am and Fionnán Sheahan’s exclusive take on the day’s news every afternoon, with our free daily newsletter.

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