An unusually aggressive campaign against LGBTQ+ marketing and content has resulted in several large corporations struggling—and inclusion efforts being paused.
- As we previously reported, Anheuser-Busch, Target, and Disney have all taken hits as a result of marketing campaigns and products related to transgender causes.
- Bud Light has seen a greater than 30% year-to-date decrease in sales, seen its stock valuation drop 15%, lost its status as the most popular beer brand to Modelo, and placed several executives and marketers on involuntary leave.
- Former Bud Light executive Anson Frericks claims that emboldened boycotters and poor corporate strategy have contributed to a stronger-than-usual push against the popular beer brand.
- Kohl’s, Nike, Adidas, Jack Daniel’s, Ford, Chick-fil-A, and the independent Christian television series The Chosen have all received anti-LGBT calls for boycotts but have seen less notable results to their bottom lines, CNBC notes.
Why It’s Important
Boycotts have traditionally not worked. Experts who track them generally say that they have a minimal effect on the company’s bottom line and do not last long, as we saw with recent boycotts called against Goya and the video game Hogwarts Legacy. More often than not, large-scale boycotts backfire and bring more attention to controversial brands.
However, a combination of politically activated consumers and media attention has created a firestorm that has propelled the Bud Light boycott for two months. The pushback is reportedly pushing some larger progressively-minded companies to shy away from public Pride Month celebrations in fear of public backlash. Workers United, a union representing Starbucks employees, claims that dozens of store locations are taking down Pride Month decorations and merchandise in response to the backlash.
The successful Bud Light boycott is forcing many corporations into a difficult decision. Pro-LGBTQ+ inclusion initiatives have become uncontroversial and common in the business community, with thousands of corporations publicly celebrating Pride Month. Many companies are facing the decision of backing off celebrating pride to avoid inciting a boycott while risking the ire of pro-inclusion groups who would consider this backsliding on civil rights for LGBTQ+ people.
GLAAD CEO Sarah Kate Ellis, speaking this week in several interviews, says that the prevalence of hundreds of recently filed anti-LGBTQ+ bills is creating greater pressure against gay and transgender Americans. However, she tells CNBC’s Squawk Box that the effectiveness of these boycotts is “overstated” and that hundreds of major brands are successfully celebrating Pride Month without severe backlash in the face of who she calls “extremists.”
“Our community and our allies talk with our dollars, and we don’t want to support a company who didn’t support us when the going got tough,” says Ellis, who argues businesses need to stand their ground in support of the LGBTQ+ community.
In an op-ed for The Spectator, activist and comedian Bridget Phetasy alternatively argues that the pushback against LGBTQ+ content is not happening in a vacuum. American support for gay marriage and acceptance of LGBTQ+ people, up until recently, was never higher in the country’s history. She argues that the transition of the greater movement from an “acceptance” movement to one that demands the right to show sexualized content to young children is enraging conservative activists against the movement.
“This set the stage for the most divisive Pride month in some time. First, the boycotts. Then videos of angry parents at school boards went viral. Conservative radio hosts and commentators vowed to make Pride ‘toxic’ to brands. But it’s not just conservatives who are pushing back; according to a recent Gallup poll, even Democrats have seen a drop in the acceptance of same-sex relations,” says Phetasy.
“We remain committed to the programs and partnerships we have forged over decades with organizations to drive economic prosperity across a number of communities, including those in the LGBTQ+ community. Recently, we shared that our partnership with the [National Gay And Lesbian Chamber Of Commerce] to empower LGBTQ+ owned small businesses across America will continue for the second year,” a Bud Light spokesperson tells CNBC.