Anheuser-Busch, a subsidiary of Belgium-based AB InBev, reportedly paid social media influencer Dylan Mulvaney a substantial six-figure sum for a promotional video featuring Bud Light in what is widely considered one of the most misguided and alienating incidents in the history of marketing.
Conservative podcaster Steven Crowder revealed details of this deal during Thursday’s episode of his eponymous podcast, including a leaked conference call from June, where executives from an AB InBev marketing partner, Captiv8, expressed concern over the growing boycott against Bud Light.
Mulvaney, who identifies as female, had posted a photo and video on April 1, drinking Bud Light and showcasing a special can with Mulvaney’s face on it, celebrating a year of gender transition. Contrary to the company’s initial claims in May that the partnership with Mulvaney was informal and involved only one can of beer, Crowder’s investigation uncovered that Bud Light had actually paid Mulvaney $185,000 for the promotion.
“This was one single can given to one social media influencer. It was not made for production or sale to the general public. This can is not a formal campaign or advertisement,” Bud Light had stated in a letter to distributors, as panic over the boycott escalated.
Crowder’s report included a video from a June 5 call within Captiv8, where CEO Krishna Subramanian instructed employees not to speak to the media.
“This audio confirms that there was panic by CEO Krishna Subramanian,” Crowder commented. He criticized AB InBev for misleading its distributors about the nature of the Mulvaney campaign.
The fallout from this marketing misstep was significant. Captiv8 reportedly laid off about 20% of its workforce, with a former employee suggesting Mulvaney’s post as a contributing factor. Additionally, CBS News reported that AB InBev’s U.S. chief marketing officer, Benoit Garbe, is set to leave the company after two years.
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