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Michel Doukeris, the chief executive of Bud Light parent company Anheuser-Busch InBev, dismissed the controversial partnership between the beer brand and social media influencer Dylan Mulvaney in an analyst call on Thursday.
Bud Light has hemorrhaged sales in recent weeks after executives partnered with Mulvaney, a biological man who claims to be a woman, and chronicled his purported gender transition on social media. Doukeris told analysts that social media users are spreading “misinformation” about the nature of the partnership, according to a report from Fox Business.
“We need to clarify the facts,” the executive for the Belgian conglomerate remarked, adding that the controversy is about “one influencer, one post and not a campaign.”
Sales for draft beer products marketed by Anheuser-Busch InBev nevertheless fell in the immediate aftermath of the partnership and continues to decline weeks after the controversy as beer enthusiasts search for alternatives. Doukeris revealed that Anheuser-Busch is now “providing direct financial support” to delivery drivers, sales representatives, wholesalers, bar owners, and other workers affected by the boycott.
“We believe we have the experience, the resources, and the partners to manage this. And our four-year growth outlook is unchanged,” Doukeris continued. “We will continue to learn, meet the moment in time, all be stronger as we work tirelessly to do what we do best: bring people together over a beer and creating a future of more cheers.”
Senior marketing executives were sidelined following the partnership with Mulvaney, who has also received a number of sponsorships from other corporate brands. Alissa Heinerscheid, who was responsible for the collaboration and previously stated that she wanted to change the “fratty” image associated with Bud Light, was placed on a leave of absence, while Daniel Blake, who leads marketing efforts for mainstream Anheuser-Busch brands, was likewise placed on leave.
Anheuser-Busch chief executive Brendan Whitworth issued a statement in response to the controversy but did not make mention of Mulvaney or apologize to customers, provoking additional criticism from consumers.
“We never intended to be part of a discussion that divides people,” the executive said. “We are in the business of bringing people together over a beer.”
Anheuser-Busch meanwhile took a dismissive tone toward the Mulvaney partnership in a letter sent to wholesalers. “This was one single can given to one social media influencer,” the document said. “It was not made for production or sale to the general public. This can is not a formal campaign or advertisement.”
The beverage firm recently hired veteran Republican lobbyists to win back conservatives upset by the partnership. Sean McLean, who served as an associate director for the White House under former President Donald Trump, as well as a legislative director for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) when she was a member of the House, was listed in a federal disclosure as individuals expected to work as lobbyists for Anheuser-Busch. Emily Lynch, who worked as a legislative assistant for former Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), was also listed in the disclosure.