The country’s largest advocacy group for LGBTQ+ rights has suspended its equality and inclusion review for Bud Light over its poor handling of the backlash that followed a partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney.
Last week, the Human Rights Campaign told 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 rating means the company “no longer has the right to use the ‘Best Places to Work’ award,” the letter from HRC said. Before the suspension, Anheuser-Busch had a CEI score of 100, the highest rating in the group.
The rating is also tied to a company’s financial health — 15 of the top 20 Fortune-ranked companies received 100 percent ratings from HRC last year, according to proprietary data.
HRC’s move comes after Senator Ted Cruz called for a federal investigation into whether Anheuser-Busch violated legal guidelines that “prohibit marketing to persons under the legal drinking age.”
Last week, the Human Rights Campaign notified 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 a fifth straight week after the controversial partnership, falling nearly 24 percent in the week ending May 6
In a letter dated May 9, the Human Rights Campaign informed the beer company of its decision to withdraw the rating.
“Anheuser-Busch had a key moment to really stand up and demonstrate the importance of their values of diversity, equality and inclusion and their response really fell short,” HRC senior director Eric Bloem wrote in the letter, which was first seen by USA today.
Criticism of the management of the controversy was echoed by Bloem.
“What we see playing out here is an example of companies making a decision to have and build inclusive marketing, which is great — but a company should stand behind those decisions,” he told The Associated Press.
A badge produced by the Human Rights Campaign that allows companies to show a 100 percent score in the Corporate Equality Index
“The Anheuser-Busch (case) is a textbook example of how not to do it.”
Since the controversial partnership, Bud Light has ironically alienated much of the demographic it initially hoped to appeal to by partnering with Mulvaney.
Bloomberg said the brand’s failure to stick with the partnership has created a “new low in the company’s courage.”
“Kicking a political hornet’s nest for clicks and giggling before running away is no way to elevate a brand or promote a good cause,” wrote Ben Schott, the publication’s Ads and Brands columnist.
Others said the fact that it didn’t continue to defend the trans cause made the original gesture seem disingenuous.
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 have a “meaningful conversation” with LGBTQ employees about their concerns and recommended leadership actions.
HRC said it received no response from Anheuser-Busch, resulting in the May 9 letter informing the company of the CEI scoring suspension.
The company is seemingly facing outrage and potential boycott, ironically from all sides of the political spectrum
Eric Bloem (pictured), senior director of Human Rights Campaign, wrote a letter to Anheuser-Busch saying the 100 percent ‘CEI’ score would be revoked
Ted Cruz sent a letter to the CEO of Anheuser-Busch on May 17 demanding an invitation to investigate whether the company was marketing beer to people under the legal drinking age by partnering with Dylan Mulvaney
Cruz and Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee sent Anheuser-Busch CEO Brendan Whitworth a letter on May 17 calling for an investigation.
In it, they claimed the company should have considered that some of Mulvaney’s audience was under the legal drinking age and that the partnership was therefore inappropriate.
Specifically, it suggested that the name of Mulvaney’s series, “Days of Girlhood,” should have been a sign that her content was aimed more at girls than women.
“An objective review of Dylan Mulvaney’s content clearly shows a phony, prepubescent girl persona created and presented to specifically appeal to young viewers,” he wrote.
It also directly quoted a comment made prior to the partnership, in which Bud Light’s VP of Marketing, Alissa Heinerscheid, said: “This brand is in decline, it’s been in decline for a long time, and if we don’t get young drinkers to come to this drink brand, there is no future for Bud Light.”
The letter suggested that the comment served as evidence that Bud Light was targeting too young a market.