Anheuser-Busch loses its 100% LGBTQ+ rating over its Bud Light debacle
The country’s largest advocacy group for LGBTQ+ rights has suspended its equality and inclusion rating for Bud Light over its poor handling of the backlash that followed from a partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney.
Last week the Human Rights Campaign told the Bud Light parent company Anheuser-Busch that it had suspended its Corporate Equality Index score – a tool that rates companies’ friendliness to LGBTQ employees.
The suspension of Anheuser-Busch’s CEI score means the company ‘no longer has the right to use the ‘Best Places to Work’ distinction,’ HRC’s letter says. Before the suspension, Anheuser-Busch had a CEI score of 100, the group’s top rating.
The rating is also linked to the financial health of a company – 15 of the top 20 Fortune-ranked companies received 100 percent ratings from HRC last year, according to its own data.
HRC’s move comes as Senator Ted Cruz called for a federal investigation into whether Anheuser-Busch breached regulatory guidelines ‘prohibiting marketing to individuals younger than the legal drinking age’.
Last week the Human Rights Campaign told the Bud Light parent company Anheuser-Busch that it had suspended its Corporate Equality Index score. Pictured is Dylan Mulvaney with a can of beer.
Bud Light sales fell for the fifth consecutive week following the controversial collaboration and they were down by nearly 24 percent in the week ending May 6.
In a letter dated May 9, the Human Rights Campaign notified the beer company of its decision to rescind its rating.
‘Anheuser-Busch had a key moment to really stand up and demonstrate the importance of their values of diversity, equity and inclusion and their response really fell short,’ wrote Eric Bloem, HRC’s senior director, in the letter, which was first seen by USA TODAY.
Criticism for the management of the controversy was reiterated by Bloem.
‘What we’re seeing play out here is an example of companies making a decision to have and construct inclusive marketing, which is great – but a business should be standing by those decisions,’ he told The Associated Press.
A badge produced by the Human Rights Campaign for companies to use to exhibit a 100 percent score in the Corporate Equality Index
‘The Anheuser-Busch (case) is a textbook example of what not to do.’
Since the controversial partnership, Bud Light has ironically alienated much of the demographic it initially hoped to appeal to by collaborating with Mulvaney.
Bloomberg said the brand’s failure to stand by the partnership set a ‘new low in corporate courage’.
‘Kicking a political hornet’s nest for clicks and giggles before running away is no way to elevate a brand or promote a cause,’ wrote Ben Schott, the publication’s advertising and brands columnist.
Others said its failure to continue championing the trans caused the original gesture to appear insincere.
In the wake of the controversy, both Budweiser and Bud Light released a number of patriotic commercials in an apparent ploy to win back the conservative market.
In an April 26 letter, seen by the AP, HRC called on Anheuser-Busch to issue a public statement expressing support for Mulvaney as well as transgender customers, shareholders and employees.
The group also asked the company to hold a “meaningful conversation” with LGBTQ employees about their concerns and recommended actions for leadership.
HRC said it received no response from Anheuser-Busch resulting in the May 9 letter informing the company of its CEI score suspension.
The company is seemingly facing outrage and potential boycott, ironically from all sides of the political spectrum
Eric Bloem (pictured), Human Rights Campaign’s senior director, wrote a letter to Anheuser-Busch saying its 100 percent ‘CEI’ score would be rescinded
Ted Cruz on May 17 sent a letter to Anheuser-Busch CEO demanding an invitation into whether the company was marketing beer to those below the legal drinking age through partnering with Dylan Mulvaney
Cruz and Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee on May 17 sent Anheuser-Busch CEO Brendan Whitworth a letter calling for a probe.
In it, they claimed the company should have considered that some proportion of Mulvaney’s audience was under the legal drinking age and that the partnership was therefore inappropriate.
Notably, it suggested that the name of Mulvaney’s series, ‘Days of Girlhood’, should have been a sign that its content was targeted more at girls than women.
‘An objective survey of Dylan Mulvaney’s content clearly presents a faux, pre-pubescent girl persona that is created and presented to specifically appeal to young viewers,’ he wrote.
It also directly cited a comment made before the partnership in which Bud Light’s VP of Marketing, Alissa Heinerscheid, said: ‘This brand is in decline, it’s been in a 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.’
The letter suggested that the comment served as proof that Bud Light was targeting an excessively young market.