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Bud Light is even cheaper than water, at least at one Pennsylvania store.
The beer brand and its parent company, Anheuser-Busch, have been stuck in a public relations nightmare since it struck an endorsement deal with Dylan Mulvaney, a flamboyant trans influencer who claims to be a woman. Mulvaney posted a video to his 1.8 million Instagram followers April 1, and sales of Bud Light promptly cratered.
“This month I celebrated my day 365 of womanhood, and Bud Light sent me possibly the best gift ever, a can with my face on it,” Mulvaney said.
After beer drinkers abandoned Bud Light in droves, the company put two of the marketing execs behind the ill-advised idea on ice. But sales have not rebounded, even with prices marked down.
“At this point, it’s cheaper than some of the cases of water we’re selling in the back,” Andy Wagner, the manager of Glenn Miller’s Beer & Soda Warehouse in Lemoyne, Pennsylvania, told the New York Times. “It’s just not moving like it used to.”
“It’s not that they stopped drinking beer,” he continued. “They just stopped buying Bud Light.” He said Anheuser-Busch broke “bar rules,” which means “no politics, no religion.”
Bud Light was the best-selling beer in the United States for over 20 years. In 2022, its sales surpassed $5 billion, but it has now been surpassed by Modelo Especial. In the four weeks ending in mid-June, Bud Light sales plummeted an average of 29 percent from the same period in 2022, according to the consulting firm Bump Williams. Since early April, Anheuser-Busch’s stock has plunged over 15%.
The CEO of Bud Light’s parent company still wouldn’t admit putting Mulvaney’s picture on a can of beer was a mistake, despite the enormous backlash. Brendan Whitworth, a Marine Corps veteran and ex-CIA employee, appeared on CBS “This Morning,” where he called the backlash “divisive.”
“I think the conversation surrounding Bud Light has moved away from beer and the conversation has become divisive,” Whitworth said. “Bud Light really doesn’t belong there; Bud Light should be about bringing people together.”
Asked what the intention of the company was in sending Mulvaney the can of beer emblazoned with his picture, Whitworth reiterated the company’s statement from early May, declaring, “It was a gift and it was one can.”
Co-host Tony Dokoupil asked, “Knowing what you know now, if you go back, would you send a can to this one person again?”
“There’s a big social conversation taking place right now and big brands are right in the middle of it,” Whitworth replied. “And it’s not just our industry or Bud Light. It’s happening in retail, it’s happening in fast food. And so, for us, what we need to understand is — deeply understand and appreciate — is the consumer, and what they want, what they care about, and what they expect from big brands.”
“Where are you on the issue? Was this a mistake?” Dokoupil pressed.
Again, Whitworth ducked the question.
“Bud Light has supported LGBTQ since 1998, so that’s 25 years,” he said. “And as we’ve said from the beginning, we’ll continue to support the communities and organizations that we’ve supported for decades. But as we move forward, we want to focus on what we do best, which is brewing great beer for everyone, listening to our consumers, being humble in listening to them, making sure we do right by our employees, take care and support our partners, and ultimately make an impact in the communities that we serve.”