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Anheuser-Busch, the brewer of beleaguered Bud Light, got ripped on social media for a countrified commercial that aired during the opening round of the NFL draft and featured girls in the rain drinking Bud Light underlined by Zac Brown’s song “Chicken Fried.”
The Americana-embracing commercial comes as the beer brand battles a public relations nightmare prompted by its endorsement deal with Dylan Mulvaney, a flamboyant trans influencer who claims to be a woman. Customers have abandoned Bud Light in droves and the company has put two of the marketing execs behind the ill-advised idea on ice. The video that aired during the NFL draft has racked up another 10 million views on YouTube, but comments have been turned off.
Zach Dean of Outkick called the video “pure pandering.”
“I nearly spit out my Yuengling,” he wrote, invoking the name of a smaller American brewer which has embraced patriotism amid the controversy. “You don’t get to just play one of the most American songs of my time, have a couple cowgirls run around in the rain and assume you’ve fixed everything. Don’t patronize us. We’re not dumb. We may be a little buzzed, but we’re not dumb.”
Dean was not alone in condemning the ad.
“A commercial that shows cowboys & cowgirls at a rodeo where it’s started to pour down rain while the Zac Brown Band plays ‘Chicken Fried’ is Bud Light’s latest commercial,” one social media user wrote. “Real smart, piss off that demographic, then cynically try to lure them back with this. Don’t fall for it.”
Another user added, “Anyone else notice the Bud Light commercials on the NFL Draft are featuring ‘Chicken Fried’ by the Zac Brown Band as their background music. They’re running as far away from their branding disaster as they can!”
A third reacted, “@budlight just saw your Chicken Fried commercial. Easy to drink, Easy to enjoy, and now that you are Woke, Hard to swallow. Trying to get the Zima and Whine Cooler crowd to drink your Clydesdale piss looks to have backfired.”
Bud Light’s sales plummeted 17% and 21% in volume in the week ending April 15 after Mulvaney, a male who identifies as a woman, posted a video to his 1.8 million followers on Instagram promoting his partnership with Bud Light on April 1.
“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.
While the transgender craze has exposed another political fault line in the U.S., some critics of Mulvaney say what they most object to is that his new persona seems more a parody of women than any genuine attempt at self-discovery. Mulvaney began the effort over a year ago, and promoted it on social media by marking periodic milestones of “celebrating girlhood” with exuberant squealing about crying, shopping, and other behaviors stereotypically associated with women. President Joe Biden, a vocal supporter of chemical and surgical operations for gender dysphoric people including children. even granted an interview to Mulvaney in October.
But Bud Light’s embrace of Mulvaney backfired in a major way, and already stands as one of the biggest corporate marketing blunders of all time.
“These numbers are staggering,” according to Insights Express, a beer-focused newsletter. “Right now this is an extremely difficult scenario for Anheuser Busch, the Bud Light brand and for AB distributors.” Sales of Coors Light and Miller Lite soared 18% in the same period, Insights Express noted, adding, “Coors Light and Miller Lite were once again big beneficiaries.”
Roughly 3,000 locations using BeerBoard’s technology logged 6% less Bud Light sales from April 2 to April 15 after Mulvaney’s video was released, Axios reported.