(WTVO) — Budweiser is attempting to repair the damage of declining sales and a customer backlash after the brand partnered with a transgender influencer.
The company launched a patriotic ad campaign over the weekend, which could be seen as a pinned tweet on its Twitter account.
Budweiser’s parent company Anheuser-Busch partnered with trans activist Dylan Mulvaney as a brand ambassador for a Bud Light campaign to market the beer to a younger audience.
Mulvaney said that the beer company sent packs of Bud Light with the influencer’s face as a way to celebrate a full year of “girlhood.” Mulvaney posted a video on Instagram to “celebrate her 365th day of womanhood” to promote the campaign.
Bud Light received backlash for alienating its longtime customers, including country music artist Kid Rock, who posted a video to Twitter showing him shooting at cans of the beer.
According to Beer Business Daily, “purely from a marketing and sales perspective, it appears likely Bud Light took a volume hit in some markets over the [Easter] holiday weekend.”
CEO Brendan Whitworth said the company “never meant to be part of a discussion that divides people” in a lengthy statement published to Anheuser-Busch’s social media accounts on Friday.
“As the CEO of a company founded in America’s heartland more than 165 years ago, I am responsible for ensuring every consumer feels proud of the beer we brew,” Whitworth wrote, adding that Anheuser-Busch has “a proud history supporting our communities, military, first responders, sports fans and hard-working Americans everywhere.”
Whitworth, in Friday’s statement, added that Anheuser-Busch will continue to place importance on “the values upon which America was founded: freedom, hard work and respect for one another.”
Bud Light’s partnership with Mulvaney is part of a recent trend of popular brands promoting transgender personalities in traditional women’s roles. According to CNN, companies like Pantene, Gillette, Citi, and Adidas have made headlines for hiring transgender spokespersons.
In March, chocolate company Hershey chose to market an image of a trans woman in celebration of International Women’s Day.
Critics say the brands are promoting a caricatured version of femininity.
Olympic medalist Caitlyn Jenner, a transgender woman, condemned Nike for partnering with Mulvaney to promote a line of sports bras, saying the brand was trying to “erase women” from sports. Other female sports stars have expressed similar concerns.
The companies have responded to the backlash by scolding critics, with Nike saying the response was not “in the spirit of a diverse and inclusive community.”