Bud Light critics burned empty beer cans and shot cans at cans as part of an anti-trans backlash against the brand that erupted early last month. Since then, anger has grown.
Bud Light sales have posted declines for six straight weeks after a product endorsement by transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney sparked the ire of many conservatives.
Consumer boycotts usually fail, but this one has spread for a range of reasons: a searing political controversy over a product with many alternatives, outcry from politicians and celebrities and amplification on social media, experts told ABC News.
The boycott intensified further, meanwhile, after the company’s initial response was seen as dovish by some LGBTQ advocates, sparking a wave of frustration on the left, the experts added.
“Generally, boycotts are called and have very little effect,” said Gerald Davis, professor of organizational behavior at the University of Michigan Graduate School of Business. “Right now, everyone is crazy.”
Bud Light sales fell nearly 25% in the week ending May 13 from the same period a year ago, according to data from Bump Williams Consulting and Nielsen NIQ obtained by ABC News.
The most recent decline showed worsening losses after falling around 23% the previous week from a year ago and falling around 7% year-on-year for the week ahead. ending April 9, shortly after the boycott began, the data showed.
Meanwhile, sales of rival beers surged. Coors Light sales jumped nearly 23% in the week ending May 13 from a year ago; while Miller Lite sales soared 21% during that period, according to the data.
“In the world of beer, there are thousands of other options readily available at similar price points,” Anson Frericks, a former Anheuser-Busch executive, told ABC News. “Every grocery store and every bar usually has the other options.”
In total, the share price of Anheuser-Busch InBev, the maker of Bud Light, has fallen about 11% since Mulvaney posted the brief Instagram endorsement video that sparked the backlash.
In a statement to ABC News, an Anheuser-Busch spokesperson said, “Bud Light remains the #1 brand in the United States nationally by volume and dollar sales despite regional differences.”
After the initial boycott, Anheuser-Busch InBev released a statement from CEO Brendan Whitworth on its website.
“We never intended to be part of a divisive discussion,” Whitworth said. “We’re in the business of bringing people together over a beer.”
The company also furloughed two executives who oversaw the approval of Mulvaney’s Instagram post, The Wall Street Journal reported last month.
The response drew heavy criticism from some LGBTQ advocates who saw it as a capitulation to the backlash. The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ advocacy organization, suspended the company’s Corporate Equality Index score, USA Today reported Thursday. Previously, the company scored 100, the highest rating.
“More people on the left are upset that the company isn’t supporting these progressive values in a more outspoken way,” Frericks said.
The scale and longevity of the backlash also underscores the intensity of anti-trans sentiment among conservatives, experts said.
As of last week, more than 520 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced in state legislatures, including more than 220 bills specifically targeting transgender and non-binary people, the Human Rights Campaign found.
Far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga. last month, she reposted a video to her 700,000 followers that strongly criticized Bud Light. Celebrities like Kid Rock and Ted Nugent had expressed similar messages before.
“This anti-awakening agenda and the idea of transgender rights has become an issue,” Maurice Schweitzer, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business who studies consumer movements, told ABC News. “He won and got a lot of attention.”
Anheuser-Busch InBev is in a difficult position as it faces frustration on both sides of the political spectrum, said Davis of the University of Michigan.
“There’s been a dynamic that’s going to be very difficult for the business to manage,” Davis said. “What position could they take now that would make one side or the other say, ‘Oh, OK’?”