Bud Light truck drivers say they’ve been targeted with homophobic abuse and given the middle finger due to the ongoing backlash to the beer brand’s collaboration with trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney.
Budweiser and its parent company Anheuser-Busch have been at the centre of a bigoted backlash since 1 April, when Dylan Mulvaney posted an Instagram video revealing a one-off special can of Bud Light with her face on it, in honour of her year of public transitioning.
Reactions to Mulvaney’s partnership with the company have been extreme. One man was arrested after destroying a shelf of beer in a Kansas Walmart store, singer Kid Rock filmed himself shooting Bud Light cans with an assault weapon, Budweiser facilities were targeted with bomb threats, and a number of country stars, including Riley Green, Travis Tritt, John Rich and Brantley Gilbert, have expressed their displeasure at the collab.
In a new wave of anti-LGBTQ+ hate, truck drivers delivering beer are being targeted with abuse from outraged right-wingers.
Drivers have reportedly been flipped the middle finger by passersby and called “gay beer salesmen”, while distributors have seen a fall in sales, officials for Anheuser-Busch told ABC News.
Further attacks on drivers have also included collisions from shopping carts as they drop off Bud Light.
One distributor of the beer told the news outlet that the situation is “frustrating”, adding: “I feel like my main supplier has put the wholesalers and their employees in a really bad spot.”
Another distributor, based in the Pacific Northwest, echoed this sentiment: “It’s sad that they [the boycotting consumers] can’t make that disconnect between the independent wholesale and a big corporation – it’s disheartening.”
High Plains Budweiser, a Nebraska-based distributor, said: “In the end, the people hurt the most are the local small business retailers and wholesalers in your community.”
Pestinger Distribution Company, which serves 23 rural counties in Kansas, said it has suffered an almost 30 per cent drop in sales of Bud Light over right-wing calls to boycott the company.
Matt Pestinger, the owner of the Kansas-based distributor, said his company has experienced a two per cent drop in revenue following the fragile anti-trans backlash to Mulvaney’s post.
In a bid to make up for the shortfall, Pestinger has spent more on sponsorships of local festivals and charities, but he said there are signs that business is picking up again.
The Pacific Northwest-based distributor agreed, saying: “I think the bad times are behind us. We do have a game plan if it does come to that level of severity.”
Former executive at Anheuser-Busch InBev, Anson Frericks, said: “The biggest losers here are the 500 independent businesses in the US that distribute Anheuser-Busch products.
“Those are the people really hurting.”
At the start of May, the CEO of Anheuser-Busch, Michel Doukeris, said it’s “too early” to assess the impact anti-trans backlash over its sponsored post with Mulvaney has had on the company.
Doukeris shared that the company had only suffered a tiny drop in global sales volume following the influencer collaboration, and in April, financial magazine The Street reported that Anheuser-Busch stock has “vaulted to 52-week highs”.
But in what appears to be an attempt to win back its lost customers, Bud Light’s parent company is said to be temporarily redesigning some of its packaging in camouflage print.
Many brands have long supported the LGBTQ+ community, including Bud Light, which has engaged in numerous sponsorship drives and given many charitable donations to queer organisations.
The company has been a sponsor of Canadian Pride for more than 20 years.