“Up For Whatever”: Bud Light and Other Companies are Facing Resilient Boycotts Over Media Campaigns


Below is my Hill column on the growing backlash of consumers against companies like Anheuser-Busch for controversial media campaigns.  For a brand with a slogan of “Up For Whatever,” Bud Light may not be up for the meltdown unfolding across the country. The company is now effectively giving away beer due to plunging sales. It is not good when your brand comes synonymous with self-destructive marketing. “Bud Lighting” is now being used as a verb, noun, and present participle. When Miller Lite produced a controversial ad to attract women, it was accused of “Bud Lighting” itself. Bud Light has now joined names like Bork (as in “Borked” nominees) or Gerry (as in Gerrymandering) that became negative verbs or nouns. That is hardly good news when you are hoping to be known for your beer.

Here is the column:

At a recent baseball game, I watched a fellow Cubs fan facing a dilemma at Nationals Park in Washington. No, it wasn’t the dilemma of whether to cheer another meltdown by a Cubs pitcher — it was the beer vendor, who was handing him a Bud Light. The vendor had only Bud Lights left…for a good reason. The company is now literally giving away beer for free due to a consumer backlash.

With a pained look, the obviously thirsty fan declined and headed for the concourse looking for another brand. Bud Light was dead to him after the controversy over a promotion featuring transgender activist Dylan Mulvaney. The Cubs fan isn’t alone. Bud Light’s parent company, Anheuser-Busch, has reportedly lost nearly $19 billion since this controversy began.

Recently, I was at a function where a guest asked a bartender if he had anything other than Miller Light. He told me that he dropped the brand after Miller Light ran an advertisement titled “Bad $#!T to Good $#!T,” denouncing past male-oriented beer ads as “sh*t” for objectifying women.

Various writers dismissed the boycott against Bud Light and said that the company had to just “hold the line” because it would fade and fail. It hasn’t.

But something is happening that has taken experts by surprise. Consumers appear to be holding the line against a growing number of brands.

The response raises tough legal and business questions over companies launching campaigns viewed as political rather than commercial. On one hand, the objections to trans figures or products threaten a type of erasure of this part of our society. On the other hand, consumers are increasingly pushing back against what they see as heavy-handed marketing of causes. In the middle, often, are shareholders.

The Los Angeles Dodgers are now being boycotted by Catholics after the company invited an anti-Catholic drag queen group to be honored at a Pride Night event.

Target is being boycotted over its Pride line of merchandise, including selling “tuck-friendly” swimwear, among other items. The company is being slammed for hiring a transgender artist, Erik Carnell, who is famous for his Satan-loving products, to create the line. Target is now down $9 billion.

I support Target or companies selling pride products or items geared toward trans customers. However, some of these campaigns appear more than efforts to reach new pockets of consumers. Putting aside those with clear prejudices against a given group, some consumers are reacting to campaigns that appear to push political or social agendas rather than products.

As shown by Disney and its ongoing fight with Florida, corporations are now committed to political and social reform campaigns. While companies once eschewed political or social causes that would alienate consumers or damage their brands, executives are increasingly tying their brands to identity politics and controversial positions.

Some, like Disney, North Face and Nike, have doubled down in the face of backlash. Nike publicly shamed its customers for objecting to its use of Mulvaney to sell sports bras, telling them that they needed to be “kind” and “inclusive” and to stop yielding to “hate speech, bullying, or other behaviors.”

Even though most of these companies will likely weather the storm, there is no question that these campaigns are reducing sales and changing the perception of these brands.

As private companies, they have every right to take these stances. Likewise, customers have every right to express their disagreement by seeking alternative products. The only other interested parties are the shareholders, who are faced with lower share values and higher losses.

Shareholders can demand an accounting from these companies. Indeed, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) advocates have often sued companies for failing to be more aggressive in reaching diversity goals. Companies like Facebook, Oracle, Danaher, Qualcomm, Gap and NortonLifeLock have been sued over the failure to reach greater goals of diversity.

Shareholders may allege a breach of the “duty of loyalty” in pursuing such campaigns, but it is a very difficult standard to meet. You have to show that executives are not just acting recklessly, but doing so in a self-interested manner or in bad faith. Alternatively, they can argue a breach of the “duty of care,” which requires a showing that the officials acted in a grossly negligent manner.

It is doubtful that such litigation would succeed. However, shareholders can generally force greater transparency on the scope and costs of these campaigns.

There is a tendency to treat executives responsible for these campaigns as irrational activists. After all, Alissa Heinerscheid, vice president of marketing for Bud Light, may have cost the company billions after pledging to drop Bud Light’s “fratty reputation and embrace inclusivity.”

She certainly succeeded in changing the entire view of the brand in less than a year on the job. Heinerscheid knew that the brand image sells the beer. That image is now unpalatable for many consumers. The social value of these campaigns is lost if consumers reject beer with the branding message.

It is not clear how these losses will impact social messaging through branding, but shareholders will have little influence. These executives are rational actors. While these campaigns may alienate consumers and even reduce profits, they offer personal and professional benefits for senior employees who make DEI policies a priority. The campaigns are the bona fides for executives in seeking opportunities and greater status. While Heinerscheid was put on leave during the meltdown, these campaigns are a net gain for most executives. More importantly, speaking against such campaigns out of concern for the brand is a high-risk move for any executive who does not want to be labeled insensitive or unenlightened.

There is a theory for an analogous phenomenon. It is called Garrett Hardin’s Tragedy of the Commons, wherein everyone acts for their immediate benefit and everyone ultimately starves as a consequence.

Hardin showed how rational actors can continue to act for their own short-term benefit, even if it means destroying the very resource that everyone relies upon to survive in the long term. “The inherent logic of the commons,” he wrote, “remorselessly generates tragedy.”

This is why executives will continue to pursue DEI campaigns regardless of their cost or the loss of consumers. Consumers seem to sense this “inherent logic,” and they are responding with the one means available to change the calculus. Companies will have to find a path through this morass with marketing that is inclusive and edgy without being political or proselytizing. There may also be increased shareholder litigation over these losses.

In the interim, Bud Light has become the unenviable vehicle for consumers to show that they are tired of companies’ virtue-signaling and social agendas. In this perverse market, the least objectionable brand may prevail when the beer guy comes around at the ballpark.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law for George Washington University.

137 thoughts on ““Up For Whatever”: Bud Light and Other Companies are Facing Resilient Boycotts Over Media Campaigns”

  1. I hear that Bud light has come out with a new add campaign. You get a case of Bud Light for two dollars and forty nine cents and a free tuck friendly onsey for your two year old son. Svelaz can’t get to Walmart fast enough to take advantage of the deal.

  2. That someone like Dylan Mulvaney can show his face in public, painted up like bordello madam and acting like an airhead Valley Girl, shows how decadent American culture has become. Where there is no shame and no social opprobrium, malign nonsense like this gets inflicted on the rest of us. Normal people need to speak up.

    1. @lefty665

      $3.49 a case? Doesn’t seem to be working.

      Have a question for our s@@tlib friends, I don’t find Dylan Mulvaney “hot” and wouldn’t date “her”. Does this make me a “bigot”?


      1. Former Wokie here. Yes, you are a “bigot” in their worldview. They become extremely distressed at the idea that a person might not prefer trans women over cis women. While this just seems like a personal preference, they can only conceive of it as a “rejection of transness.” It’s from Intersectional Feminists. Women are forced to date trans women at penalty of being ostracized from the community. This is why the Woke community is now full to the brim with predators of all kinds. There are many “kinky” rapists who are shielded by Wokies. Women are made to comply and participate in things like porn and sex trafficking because to do otherwise is “kink shaming.” It is “kink shaming” to tell someone their fantasies about raping children and animals are wrong. A lot of these people are in the military and DoD, so it’s like a reverse of what happened with DADT. If a woman does not respond to the kink or tries to get the police, she is a “snitch” or “a professional victim.” Puget Sound Naval Shipyard is now openly endorsing a sex cult called The Satanic Temple. One of their hiring bosses is a Daddy Dom and part-time pimp called Wes Bonetti. It’s astonishing this is happening in the United States.

      2. Antonio,
        Yeah, no price is low enough for me to buy it.
        I must be a bigot too. Every time I see a picture of Mulvaney, I scroll past as fast as I can. I find the picture creepy. Kinda like how I see some of the pictures or videos of drag queen shows creepy.

        Support real women.

  3. With the Woke’s incessant cry of “Republicans are banning art works”, how predictable odd that they are not denouncing the Left from banning cinematography and published classic art works.

    This scene from the “Bird Cage” might be better if our resident trolls Svelaz / bug / Gigi and Fishwings played the parts by Nathan Lane and Robin Williams, though it likely would make Svelaz / bug / Gigi piss in her onesies with a slight bulge


    1. Estovir,

      When I read today (again) about Dylan Mulvaney, I felt compelled to go off-topic and cleanse my mind by posting a Memorial Day tribute to my friend Billy. Reading the tribute each year since his death has become a ritual of remembrance, not only of a loss but also of the sacrifice so many have made for this wonderful country:

      Billy was a Cuban American boy with whom I grew up in West Palm Beach. If you think of the stereotypical passionate Latin American male, that was Billy. He was a little taller than me; he had dark skin; and all the girls I knew loved him instead of me. Billy had a unique talent. He sang like an angel. He had a tenor voice that already was mature in high school. The girls that I wanted to like me, swooned when Billy sang. He really did have an unfair advantage.

      Billy loved to sing, especially in church when our sanctuary choir backed him up. Billy’s voice filled our souls, brought tears to our eyes, and goose bumps to our skin. On graduation from high school, Billy enrolled in college on a scholarship in a school of church music.

      Too soon, Billy’s student deferment was gone. Rather than be drafted, like many of my friends, Billy joined the military (he chose the Army) so he would have some control over his own destiny. Billy went to school, became a helicopter pilot, and then was sent to Vietnam. He was not there long—a little over nine months. Billy was flying at 5000 feet between Long Bin and Saigon when someone on the ground fired a shoulder-held missile and blew the helicopter up. It was September 1969. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, I was growing demonstration crops of “Miracle Rice” on Panay Island in the Philippines when the telegram was delivered to me, letting me know that my friend Billy was dead.

      On this Memorial Day, I will remember and mourn Billy again. Remembering keeps him in my life. But remembering serves another purpose, as well. Remembering makes me face the reality that the world is not wonderful. Billy was a good person. Hurting someone else hurt him. But as a member of the military doing his duty, a duty that he was doing for us, he was forced to kill others who were determined to kill him and us. My friend Billy died, as did all the other veterans we honor, because they served with honor in a dishonorable world.

      On this Memorial Day, the world seems even more imperfect; we are even more disillusioned. Domestic and foreign terrorism here and around the globe has taken human culture to a new low in which innocent death—even children—is the goal rather than a terrible consequence. And once again, facing forces impossible to comprehend, we have turned to those in military service to stand in our place in harm’s way. They need our prayers today, and they shall have them. And so, I salute you Billy. My friend, I can still hear you singing.

      1. Very beautiful. Thank you for telling us about Billy.

        A prayer for Billy:

        Dios de misericordia y amor,
        ponemos en tus manos amorosas
        a nuestros hermanos y hermanas
        que has llamado de esta vida a tu presencia.
        En esta vida les demostraste tu gran amor,
        y ahora que ya están libres de toda preocupación
        concédeles pasar con seguridad las puertas de la muerte
        y gozar de la luz y la paz eterna.
        Habiendo terminado su vida terrena recíbelos en el paraíso,
        en donde ya no habrá tristeza ni dolor,
        sino únicamente felicidad y alegría con Jesús, tu Hijo,
        y con el Espíritu Santo, para siempre.


        A prayer for Memorial Day:

        God of power and mercy,
        you destroy war and put down earthly pride.
        Banish violence from our midst and wipe away our tears,
        that we may all deserve to be called your sons and daughters.
        Keep in your mercy those men and women
        who have died in the cause of freedom
        and bring them safely
        into your kingdom of justice and peace.
        We ask this though Jesus Christ our Lord.
        R/. Amen


        1. Estovir! What a beautiful response…..and beautiful prayers for Billy and Memorial Day!
          You always know the most touching and appropriate things to say.
          Thank you!

      2. If we as a nation were capable we should’ve listened more to the Founders then most of those that have came later & tried to “Fix Things” with millions of Govt employees/Subs & god knows how Tons of paper/regs crap.

        https://thehistoricpresent.com › 2012 › 03 › 27 › washingtons-farewell-address-avoiding-foreign-entanglements
        Washington’s Farewell Address: avoiding foreign entanglements
        Washington’s Farewell Address: avoiding foreign entanglements thehistoricpresent American history, Politics, The Founders March 27, 2012 10 Minutes In part 3 of our series on Washington’s 1796 Farewell Address, we continue our close reading, picking up near the middle of this long text.

        Like this early US coin says: Mind Your Business. There’s been so many places like Vietnam our corrupt leaders should not have sent our troops & treasure.


  4. Remember shareholder profit is not the that important when fighting for social justice!

    I am sure our esteemed and morally superior leftist friends can find a way to force beer drinkers to buy Bud Light just as they forced people to take an unwanted, experimental “vaccine”.

    Lefties love forcing people to do things they believe promote social justice and “equity”. It’s for the good one of society, right?

    And if you don’t agree, you’re a bigot.

    Any ideas s@@tlibs on how to force our backwards, recalcitrant beer drinkers to purchase Bud Light?


  5. Let me see if I get this straight. One half of one percent of the American people are transgender and an even much smaller percentage are satanist and yet they have a special place at Target. What’s this thing with the goat head on it mommy? Don’t worry dearest we have tickets to the Dodgers game where you can learn all about it. I hear that Joe Biden is looping out the first baseball designed to look like a fire ball. This is the America that they have in store for you. They look on with shock and amazement when you don’t go to the game or buy their water beer. Surely you must all be transphobic, satanphobic, and budphobic along with your racism. Hey Bud, and the L.A. Dodgers we lift this one finger to you. Enjoy, this ones for you. After all you did the same thing to America and we noticed.

  6. Prides exist in polyanorou harmony with [unPlanned] cubs playing in gay parade on African savannas.

    The Rainbow in human context is albinophobic.

    Homosexuals can socially distance, but they are in the transgender spectrum, diverse, equitable, and inclusive (DEI).

    That said, dversity of individuals, minority of one. #HateLovesAbortion

  7. One of the main principles in marketing is to appeal to as many people as possible to sell your products. One half of one percent of Americans identity as transgender and yet Target and Busch decide to dedicate space and advertising of their companies to transgender people while pissing off the regular Joe who has put in a hard week of work and just wants to watch a damn baseball game without being indoctrinated to a cause. The average Joe six pack just wants to see a home run or a touchdown without all the virtue signaling. The average Joe spends his money on cable television and a beer just to enjoy the game but he finds himself disrespected by the very people that he gives his money to. Baseball, Target, the NFL and Bud must have a death wish and their doing their dead level best to make their dreams come true. Virtue has very little to do with it in the end.

    1. Or, mansierre… equitable and inclusive of viable carbon clusters with or without a labia majora.

  8. THE SOLUTION ….a Bud Light ‘gift with purchase’ in the form of a unisex sports bra would ‘be the inclusive you want to be’…Hey who couldn’t use a spare sports bra….?!

  9. The simple but unstated fact is that Bud Light is a crummy beer to begin with. Pasteurized and mixed with synthetic form stabilizers like polyethylene oxide (PolyOx) to give it a fake “head,” the brew was only popular because of its endless advertisements on TV and in support of sporting events. Ads have both a direct and subliminal effect on us as we mentally envision ourselves to be those attractive models in the Bud Light ads. So, the popularity of Bud Light was never built around taste or flavor but solely on the ad pitch by Anheuser-Busch. If taste mattered, some of those European beers that are made in strict conformity to purity laws would win out hands down. When Bud Light committed suicide with an ad for Bud Light that was contrary to the image most Bud Light drinkers had of themselves and their favorite brew, it was the end, the last straw, the admission that the brew was fit for misfits unlike them. What happened after was predictable. Companies need to be on the watch for similar market-killing strategies by employees looking to profit from shorting their employer’s stocks. In the meantime, enjoy the other beers that are out there, including some from nearby Mexico, where the companies do not seek to divide and lose their loyal consumer base. As for Anheuser-Busch, get used to it; Bud Light is not coming back. As Target has learned, you cannot put the feathers back in the pillow once you’ve let them out. Trying to make amends is as bad or worse than what you’re trying to make amends for. The best strategy is to ignore the wokesters and simply do your job making and selling merchandise for the public that supports you and has supported you.

    1. I would encourage everyone to enjoy a local craft beer and, if you can’t, brew you’re own. It’s not that hard and you can make up to 250 gallons a year

  10. What goes around comes around. There is no big mystery here. For years large chunks of the citizenry has been ‘bullied’, ‘harassed’ and ‘censored’ for even daring to not give full-throated support to every fringe group. The result has been that those fringe groups have multiplied and expanded by ‘bullying’ their opponents to the point of character assassination via silencing on a national scale, as in Democrat party.

    “Various writers dismissed the boycott against Bud Light and said that the company had to just “hold the line” because it would fade and fail.” This time is probably different. The bullying has become extreme and national. The boycott campaigns against such a backdrop, previously not experienced, seems likely to continue and have impact. Unfortunately, the bullies are now likely to have their own weapons used upon them with unpredictable results. Intolerance breeds intolerance.

    Mr. Turley, you overlook the most potent shareholder action of all: they sell. In BUD’s case that action amounts to15% share value since the end of March, 2023. Will even a ‘woke’ executive want that on their resume? That they were an executive at the helm of a stable company that stumbled/failed on their watch?

    In the current world of choices, companies need to critically assess their political involvement in terms of prudence. To say the least, have BUD’s actions influenced their customers in the direction they had predicted? If so, what was the gain? If not, what kind of lame management would not have considered such an outcome?

    To sum it up, one long time Bud drinker asked me: “have you ever heard of Narragansett Beer?”….and I don’t even drink beer.

    1. Their “gain” is short sighted and misguided. It is being driven by a top down ideology that values the promotion of social change over profits, and they will dive bomb themselves into to ground to push the agenda if left to their own policing, until cooler and more rational heads take the reins. The ones pushing it likely are independently wealthy and are less concerned with profits, as they have found the light and truth that is more important than profits.

  11. As Elon said, ESG is the devil. It’s also a way of alienating one’s customers. What we need is a new scoring mechanism for corporations – a kind of anti-ESG yardstick. This will signal the market on which stocks are successfully resisting ESG, and thereby are likely to increase in value.

    I propose a name: the NP-JSFS score. As I said a couple days ago, that stands for “no politics, just stuff for sale.” It could be known as the NP score for short.

    Now . . . we just need a rating agency for reporting the scores. I nominate me to head the agency (haha).

  12. Re: “some consumers are reacting to campaigns that appear to push political or social agendas rather than products.”

    That is the meat of the matter. Offended consumers feel that endorsing Woke gay/trans activism not only endorses a personal lifestyle, it also endorses the caricaturing of women and girls in often offensive and even vulgar ways, endorses the invasion of biological men in women’s and girls sports and in the private spaces of women and girls. Women and girls now may have no expectation of legitimate athletic contests and rights of privacy, safety and security in their private spaces.

    The Woke expectation is that everyone is to support Dylan and his pals and everything that they represent and demand from others, especially from women and girls. That is what Budweiser, Miller, Target, et al. are really selling via their advertising.

  13. Dylan Mulvaney is quite obviously a gay man who craves attention. He tried to get attention as a gay man, and was only moderately successful. He then re-invented himself as a (pretend) girl, and that worked. He got reasonably wealth from the gambit and quite logically sees no reason to stop . . . that is, unless this popping bubble leads to him re-inventing himself again.

    As for beer drinkers, they know what’s going on and there is only so much cognitive dissonance they will put up with in being told they have to accept that Dylan Mulvaney is a girl. They’re a lot smarter than the coastal elites give them credit for.

  14. ESG and DEI Nuevo fascism by another name… Redirecting the corporation to interfere with government and society while pretending to be the benevolent hand of assistance guiding society forward… HELL NO…

  15. Historians may see the Bud Light fiasco as the point where the trans bubble popped. That “pop” had been building for a while, with normal Americans getting sick of being preached to, women having to share bathrooms with biological men, the proliferation of groomers victimizing young children with up-close-and-personal drag shows, and also (especially) the unfairness to women athletes who have lost competitions to biological men.


    1. I wonder why they scrubbed his name from the WEF website? Pretty obvious that he is trying to co-op Trump’s base.

  16. It’s bad enough when the majority thinks everyone should be like them but it’s really bad when a minority thinks that way and is in control of product marketing.

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