Why was everyone mad at Budweiser in 2023? The Dylan Mulvaney ‘controversy’ explained

A split imiage of the beer can that Dylan Mulvaney received and her Instagram video.

A furious backlash to a Budweiser transgender ‘commercial’ in April 2023 saw sales of Bud Light dramatically fall. The reason? A one-off social media post made by transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney. 

After Mulvaney promoted the brand on her Instagram page in April 2023, transphobic responses ranged from right-wingers smashing displays in public, bars refusing to sell Bud Light and, in the case of musician Kid Rock, shooting cans of the beer

Following calls for a boycott, parent company Anheuser-Busch InBev reported in August 2023 that sales of Bud Light in the US fell by more than 10 per cent in spring, according to the BBC.

It was also reported that rival Mexican brand Modelo had replaced Bud Light as the US’s top-selling beer.

In an update to investors on Thursday 3 August 2023, Anheuser-Busch InBev said its share of the US market had dropped more than five per cent since the previous year.

Outside the US, however, Budweiser sales rose by nearly 17 per cent compared with 2022.

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Despite Bud Light sales dropping, the Belgium-based company, whose other brands include Stella Artois and Leffe, said performance had been better than analysts had expected. 

In June 2023, despite the backlash, the chief executive of Anheuser-Busch vowed that the company would continue to support the LGBTQ+ community.

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Speaking on CBS Mornings, Brendan Whitworth said: “Bud Light has supported LGBTQ since 1998, so that’s 25 years. As we’ve said from the beginning, we’ll continue to support the communities and organisations that we’ve supported for decades.”

Whitworth added that “the conversation surrounding Bud Light has moved away from beer, and has become divisive”. 

The interview, and a previous statement in which he said the company never intended to be part of a discussion that “divides people”, prompted a different backlash – this time, from the LGBTQ+ community, with some people saying the brand had not been unequivocal enough in its support of the trans community.

Several queer bars joined the boycott of Bud Light in the months following the advert, claiming the company had distanced itself from Mulvaney at a time when she needed support against transphobic hatred.

Mulvaney talked in-depth about the campaign for the first time in June 2023, claiming she had faced bullying and transphobia that made her “scared to leave my house”.

She also criticised Bud Light for failing to back her publicly, adding that the response had caused a loneliness she wouldn’t wish on anyone.

“What transpired from that video was more bullying and transphobia than I could have ever imagined… I was waiting for the brand to reach out to me, but they never did,” Mulvaney claimed.

“For a company to hire a trans person, then not publically stand by them is worse, in my opinion, than not hiring a trans person at all.

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“The hate doesn’t end with me, it has serious and grave consequences for the rest of our community… to turn a blind eye and pretend everything is OK, just isn’t an option right now.”

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