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Bud Light's Dylan Mulvaney problem won’t cripple Anheuser-Busch, but will tarnish reputation, experts say

Beer juggernaut Anheuser-Busch has seen its value suffer since Bud Light’s polarizing partnership with transgender activist Dylan Mulvaney. While financial gurus don’t expect the $132 billion company to go anywhere, the eyebrow-raising promotion could certainly tarnish Bud Light’s reputation. 

“I simply don’t understand why they hired the person who was doing the marketing. I mean, if you’re a target customer is Kid Rock, and then all of a sudden you decide to go to RuPaul, that just doesn’t make any sense at all,” Oxygen Financial CEO Ted Jenkin told Fox News Digital. 

“They generally focus on getting blue-collar workers and younger adults that are 25 to 29 years old. So, I don’t think that this one campaign is going to colossally destroy the brand,” Jenkin continued. “But certainly short term, it puts doubt into their loyal drinkers of Bud Light to say, ‘Do I want to continue to be drinking Bud Light based upon who they’re showing representing Bud Light?’”

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Anheuser-Busch set social media ablaze when beer juggernaut Bud Light celebrated transgender activist Dylan Mulvaney’s "365 Days of Girlhood" with a polarizing promotion. 

Anheuser-Busch set social media ablaze when beer juggernaut Bud Light celebrated transgender activist Dylan Mulvaney’s “365 Days of Girlhood” with a polarizing promotion.  (Instagram)

Mulvaney, a trans activist and social media influencer who gained prominence when given an opportunity to interview President Biden about LGBTQ issues in 2022, is now represented by the influential Creative Artists Agency and has endorsement deals with other major brands, including Nike and Kate Spade. Mulvaney revealed earlier this month that the beer company sent packs of Bud Light with her face printed on the cans as part of an ad for the beer company’s March Madness contest and as a way to celebrate a full year of “girlhood.”

A second video then featured a bikini-clad Mulvaney frolicking in a bathtub while drinking a Bud Light beer as part of the campaign. Backlash has been significant, starting with many pondering if the pact was some sort of April Fool’s gag. In the days since, country music singer John Rich said he pulled cases of Bud Light from his Nashville bar, conservative rocker Kid Rock used several Bud Light cases for target practice in a viral video, Anheuser-Busch distributors in rural areas have expressed concern and the beer juggernaut’s value has plummeted. 

The stock was $66.73 per share on March 31 and closed at $64.34 on Thursday. That came amid speculation that investors were buying the dip after it closed at $63.38 on Wednesday, sparking headlines that Anheuser-Busch lost roughly $5 billion in market cap. 

Jenkin only had one client heavily invested in Anheuser-Busch prior to the Mulvaney debacle.

“They asked us to completely eliminate their position,” Jenkins said. “We had one person that said, ‘Get me out of that stock. I just don’t want to be a part of it.’”

Jenkin said Bud Light is probably “desperate” to reach young people because wine, hard seltzers and craft brews are cutting into sales. While Jenkin is stunned Bud Light would make such a high-profile gaffe that insulted loyal customers, he feels Anheuser-Busch’s value nosedive isn’t going to put such a large company in serious jeopardy anytime soon. 

“When you see a number like a loss of $4 billion or $5 billion, it does seem like a lot of money. But relative to the value of the company, which is $132 billion, it really has only gone down roughly 3% to 4%,” Jenkin said.

But just because Anheuser-Busch will manage to stay in business despite the Mulvaney backlash, Jenkin said the controversy could have a lingering impact on Bud Light. 

“Anytime a company puts on a national spokesperson that has backlash, it certainly can affect your business. I mean, look what happened with Paula Deen and Bill Cosby and Lance Armstrong, and they were famous people. Now we’re just talking about a transgender influencer,” Jenkin said. “So, certainly there can be a trickle-down effect.”

A picture of the commemorative Bud Light can featuring TikTok influencer Dylan Mulvaney. 

A picture of the commemorative Bud Light can featuring TikTok influencer Dylan Mulvaney.  (Dylan Mulvaney/Instagram)

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National Center for Public Policy Research fellow Scott Shepard noted that Anheuser-Busch is owned by international drinks conglomerate InBev, so a single American product likely won’t crater its global value even if nobody buys it going forward. 

“But that seems like a plausible result. The Venn diagram of people interested in drinking Bud Light and those eager to support the issue at the sharp edge of the wokist culture war is pretty much just two circles vaguely near one another,” Shepard wrote. “While InBev investors won’t suffer too much, distributors of AB products and others who do business with the company surely will.”

Famed journalist-turned-investor Porter Bibb believes Anheuser-Busch’s “momentary woke initiative follows the current market trend of punishing companies for leaning into social culture,” but agrees it won’t last forever. 

“Like alarm over a coming recession and a hard landing, this too will pass. The country is – finally — undergoing a social, cultural, and political transformation as Gen Z begins to assert itself,” Bibb told Fox News Digital. 

Bibb feels that brands like Anheuser-Busch and Disney are among companies that “have been assailed for attempting to reach out to previously marginalized groups” in an effort to show concern and grow consumer base. 

“More significantly to ensure that they are covering important niche markets as perceptions, taste, and brand awareness continues to change,” Bibb said. “Anheuser-Busch, in particular, may see its share price slide once the market realizes that Bud sales are rapidly giving way to all the water and seltzer brands the company is now stocking.”

The story has been firmly in the cultural zeitgeist, with beer drinkers flooding social media to bash Bud Light decision makers or offer thoughts on the ordeal. 

Anheuser-Busch loses billions following partnership with trans influencer Video

Fox News’ “Outnumbered” tackled the topic on Thursday. 

“It just befuddles me that companies do this,” co-host Kayleigh McEnany said. “It’s in sports, it’s in beer now, Disney… this is the consequence of getting into that territory.” 

Forbes Media chairman Steve Forbes believes consumers will ultimately decide if Anheuser-Busch botched the promotion. 

“I think in terms of the whole marketing thing they’re ultimately going to find out the consumer ultimately is the ruler on this,” Forbes said Wednesday on Fox Business Network’s “The Bottom Line.”

“Do you want to bring in certain influencers? It may work, it may not work,” Forbes continued. “The consumer is ultimately the ruler and that’s what these companies have to keep in mind.”

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Forbes said that companies can do whatever they want when it comes to working with social media influencers.

“If you are not performing, your stock takes a hit, shareholders get uneasy. You are going be out of a job if you’re CEO,” Forbes continued. “The market ultimately works, and the market is people.” 

Forbes then suggested that Anheuser-Busch could have marketed a new beer to potential new consumers instead of pivoting the strategy of Bud Light, which had an existing foundation. 

Jenkin agreed and said it was a “horrific” move to use Bud Light when Anheuser-Busch controls so many brands. He believes Bud Light has historically catered toward blue-collar Americans, and other products would have been more appropriate if the company wanted to reach the LGBTQ community. 

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“Why in the world would you go after 1%, less than 1% of our country that are transgender and think that that’s going to make an influence on getting more young people to drink Bud Light? It makes no sense to me whatsoever,” Jenkin said. “I either would have put out a new product or I would have gone into seltzer or some of these pre-canned mixed cocktails – would have been a much better move than using the traditional brands of Bud or Bud Light.”

Anheuser-Busch did not immediately respond to a request for comment about its stock. The company had previously stood by the decision. 

“Anheuser-Busch 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. This commemorative can was a gift to celebrate a personal milestone and is not for sale to the general public,” an Anheuser-Busch spokesperson told Fox News.

John Rich laments Bud Light-Mulvaney controversy: This is a heartbreaker for a lot of people Video

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Fox News’ Alexander Hall and Suzanne O’Halloran contributed to this report. 

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