Since Bud Light unveiled its partnership with Dylan Mulvaney earlier this month, to mark the transgender influencer’s “Day 365 of womanhood”, US conservatives have been up in arms.
In the succeeding days, a campaign to boycott the beer gathered momentum on social media, with various activists proclaiming they’d never drink another Bud again — or, in Kid Rock’s case, unloading a submachine gun into a case of Bud and then yelling profanity at Anheuser-Busch, the beer’s owner. Palpably spooked, the company this week released a new, “patriotic” advert, featuring a horse galloping over the Brooklyn Bridge.
Could this be an opportunity for conservatives to finally teach pandering corporations a lesson — to show them that “get woke, go broke” isn’t just an empty slogan? (While many brands have become embroiled in controversies after showing support for Left-wing causes, few have suffered any real, long-term damage.)
I suspect it could. According to the latest sales figures, Bud Light is down while Coors Light and Miller Lite are up. What’s more, this divergence is mirrored in the stock prices of Anheuser-Busch and Molson Coors (which owns the two competitor beers).
As the above chart indicates, the boycott gained mass appeal on 6 April when there was a huge spike in Google search interest. As of 16 April, interest remains elevated. Turning to the chart below, Anheuser-Busch’s stock price initially crashed 4.5%, though it has since recovered most of the loss. Meanwhile, Molson Coors’s stock price has jumped more than 10%.
This divergence may not seem like much, but it’s worth remembering that Anheuser-Busch is a behemoth that owns dozens of brands, including Becks, Corona and Stella Artois. Since most boycotters either aren’t aware of this or only want to punish Bud Light, expecting a large decline in the stock price isn’t realistic.
What is realistic? When corporations first started taking sides in the culture war, there was a sense among conservatives that “the market” would punish such behaviour and offenders would soon learn to cut it out. Events over the last few years have disabused them of this notion.
They now understand that simply venting one’s indignation on social media isn’t enough: to make corporations get the message, you actually have to do something. Of course, engineering change isn’t always easy. Boycotting the NFL was never going to work because you can’t “just start your own sports league”.