Bud Light Executive Says Misinformation Drove Controversy: Mulvaney Campaign Was ‘Not An Advertisement’

The CEO of Bud Light’s parent company blamed online misinformation for the controversy surrounding its marketing with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney, in an interview with the Financial Times, doubling down on a strategy to distance the beer brand from a political controversy that sunk sales volumes in the U.S. over the past month.

Bud Light partnered with Mulvaney by creating a beer can with her face on it, which she shared in March with her 10 million TikTok followers, using the hashtag #budlightpartner—but executives have said “misinformation” and a misunderstanding of the campaign has fueled the intense controversy that followed.

Michel Doukeris, the CEO of Bud Light parent Anheuser-Busch InBev, told the Financial Times that social media played a major role in fueling controversy about Bud Light’s partnership with Mulvaney: “The reality is no longer what the fact is, but is more [about]what the comments were.”

Doukeris’ interview echoes comments he made during a call with investors on Thursday, when he said Mulvaney’s post “was not an advertisement” and the beer can with her likeness was not intended to be widely produced for sale to the public.

Leadership is aiming to highlight Bud Light’s branding as “easy to drink, easy to enjoy,” downplaying and distancing itself from political controversies, Doukeris said.

Following backlash in mid-April, Anheuser-Busch CEO for the U.S. Brendan Whitworth also released a statement saying the company “never intended to be part of a discussion that divides people.”

Forbes reached out to AB InBev for comment.

Bud Light sales were down more than 20% at the end of April, according to an Associated Press report, as right-wing criticism of the beer brand’s connection with Mulvaney, including a post from singer Kid Rock where he shoots cans of Bud Light, has resulted in widespread boycotts. Bud Light will triple its marketing spending in the U.S. this summer to try to reboot sales, Doukeris said Thursday. The company has also put Alissa Heinerscheid and Daniel Blake, two marketing executives for Bud Light and Anheuser-Busch, on leave. Heinerscheid had previously said she wanted to make Bud Light’s advertising more inclusive, describing it as “fratty” and “out-of-touch” during a podcast interview in March.

Overall, AB InBev’s first-quarter profits rose roughly 14% from last year, beating analysts’ expectations. Bud Light’s sales drop in the U.S. accounted for 1% of InBev’s global volumes in April, Doukeris said, adding it is “too early to have a full view” of the situation.

“We will need to continue to clarify the fact that this was one can, one influencer, one post—and not a campaign, and repeat this message for some time,” Doukeris said during the earnings call Thursday.



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