Behind the Backlash Against Bud Light’s Transgender Influencer

Some conservative commentators and celebrities have called for a boycott of Bud Light after the beer was featured in a social media promotion by a transgender influencer, Dylan Mulvaney.

Ms. Mulvaney is popular on TikTok, where she has more than 10.8 million followers and has been documenting her transition online. The controversy began on April 1, when she posted a video on her Instagram account, where she has 1.8 million followers, to promote a Bud Light contest.

Ms. Mulvaney, 26, celebrated one full year of her “Days of Girlhood” series in March with a live show at Rockefeller Center called “Dylan Mulvaney’s Day 365 Live!”

Her Bud Light promotional post is less than a minute long and is mostly about a $15,000 giveaway that the company sponsored during March Madness. She mentions that the company sent her a tallboy can with her face on it to celebrate the 365-day milestone.

Ms. Mulvaney says her newfound fame has made her an ‘easy target.’

Ms. Mulvaney has become more popular in the year since she created “Days of Girlhood.” In October, she spoke with President Biden at the White House about transgender rights.

This success has met with personal attacks from public figures, including Senator Marsha Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee, and Caitlyn Jenner, the Republican former Olympian and transgender woman whose politics have made her a target of criticism from members of the L.G.B.T.Q. community.

Ms. Mulvaney has not spoken directly about the Bud Light boycott, but she addressed the hostility she has faced in an interview on the “Onward With Rosie O’Donnell” podcast that was released on Tuesday. She is “an easy target,” she said, “because I’m still new to this.”

On Being Transgender in America

“I think going after a trans woman that’s been doing this for like 20 years is a lot more difficult,” she said.

She added, “But what is their goal?”

A representative for Ms. Mulvaney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Supporters of a boycott have not said what they hope to gain.

The calls for a boycott have not included a specific demand. And some of the most prominent voices backing it have attacked the transgender community in the past, including the musician Kid Rock, who posted a video of himself shooting a stack of Bud Light cases this month.

The criticism of Bud Light, amid other complaints about brand partnerships with transgender people, comes as Republican state lawmakers are proposing legislation that seeks to regulate the lives of young transgender people, restrict drag shows in a way that could include performances by transgender people, and require schools to out transgender students to their parents.

For brands, social media controversies can be opportunities, experts say.

The investment website Seeking Alpha said that the stock price of Anheuser-Busch InBev, which makes Bud Light, was experiencing some volatility, but predicted that the effects would not be long-term because “news events often have an outsized short-term impact on share prices, and then fade away.”

Anna Tuchman, associate professor of marketing at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, has researched boycotts, including the calls for people to stop buying Goya Foods products in 2020 after the company’s president praised President Donald J. Trump. Her research and other similar studies have found that such efforts tend to be short-lived and don’t have a long-term effect.

Professor Tuchman said that, while people may be willing to change their behavior for a few weeks, it is much harder to convince people to change their long-term behavior.

Another obstacle in boycotts is finding replacement products.

Anheuser-Busch sells more than 100 brands of beer in the United States and is the largest beer brewer in the world.

One supporter of the boycott, Representative Dan Crenshaw, Republican of Texas, posted a video online to show that his fridge did not have Bud Light, but it did have beer from Karbach Brewing Company, which is also owned by Anheuser-Busch.

A “buycott” is when people buy a product to protest a boycott against it. Professor Tuchman found that during the Goya boycott the company’s sales rose by 22 percent over two weeks before falling back to the baseline.

After the country musician Travis Tritt said that he would stop including Bud Light in his tour rider, Kevin John Wasserman, the guitarist for the Offspring who goes by Noodles, said that the band would include Anheuser-Busch products in its rider.

What’s in it for Bud Light?

Anheuser-Busch did not respond to requests for comment. In a statement to BuzzFeed News, the company said it “works with hundreds of influencers across our brands as one of many ways to authentically connect with audiences across various demographics.”

“From time to time we produce unique commemorative cans for fans and for brand influencers, like Dylan Mulvaney,” the statement said. “This commemorative can was a gift to celebrate a personal milestone and is not for sale to the general public.”

L.G.B.T.Q. people in the United States have an estimated $1.1 trillion in annual purchasing power, according to a 2019 report by LGBT Capital, a financial services company.

Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and chief executive of the L.G.B.T.Q. advocacy organization GLAAD, said in an emailed statement that marketing featuring L.G.B.T.Q. people would continue. “Companies will not end the standard business practice of including diverse people in ads and marketing because a small number of loud, fringe anti-L.G.B.T.Q. activists make noise on social media,” she said.

Americus Reed, a professor of marketing at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, said companies usually weigh the economic and moral effects of brand partnerships that some may see as political.

As part of that calculus, he said, companies recognize that a partnership could cause them to lose some customers, but bet that it is worth attracting new, and potentially more loyal, customers who value the company for taking a stand.

Alissa Heinerscheid, vice president of marketing for Bud Light, said in an interview before the boycott that the brand needed to be more inclusive.

“The brand is in decline,” Ms. Heinerscheid said on the “Make Yourself at Home” podcast in March. “It’s been in decline for a really long time. And if we do not attract young drinkers to come and drink this brand, there will be no future for Bud Light.”

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