Anheuser-Busch’s controversial sponsorship of trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney in an advertising campaign for its beer brand Bud Light is just the most recent example of corporations championing progressive causes—and then having to backpedal when they discover that the message proves divisive.
In an attempt to quell a backlash among Bud Light drinkers, Anheuser-Busch CEO Brendan Whitworth stated on Friday: “We never intended to be part of a discussion that divides people. We are in the business of bringing people together over a beer.” Anonymous sources within the company claimed that “no one at a senior level” was aware of the promotional campaign.
Whitworth’s statement echoes the words of Disney CEO Bob Iger in November 2022, following Disney’s vow to fight a parents’ rights law in Florida that barred the teaching of sexual topics in school for children in third grade or younger. While speaking to employees shortly after taking the helm from fired CEO Bob Chapek, who made the decision to fight the Florida law, Iger said, “I was sorry to see us dragged into that battle, and I have no idea exactly what its ramifications are.”
Other corporations who have gone down this path include fashion brands company Balenciaga, which published ads showing pre-school-age girls posed alongside sexual tools and messages in November 2022. In response to a public backlash, Balenciaga issued this statement: “We would like to address the controversies surrounding our recent ad campaigns. We strongly condemn child abuse; it was never our intent to include it in the narrative.”
These companies followed in the political footsteps of Major League Baseball, Delta Airlines, and Coca-Cola, who in 2021 fought a voter-ID law in Georgia, alleging that it amounted to racist voter suppression. In the wake of the controversy, a Rasmussen poll found that 37 percent of responders said they were less likely to buy Coca-Cola products, while 25 percent said they were more likely, because of the company’s political stance, which caused the nickname “Woke-a-Cola” to go viral. According to a 2022 Gallup poll, 79 percent of voters, including a majority of both Democrats and Republicans, support voter ID laws.
“At this point, it’s clear that corporations are going to be risking customers, employee engagement, and relationships with shareholders if they decide to drive a particular political agenda with their brand and resources,” Jeremy Tedesco, senior counsel at the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), told The Epoch Times. “There are definitely negative consequences to businesses continuing to go down this path of choosing one side or another in these political debates.”