Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has ramped up demands that Anheuser-Busch hand over documents in relation to an investigation of whether Bud Light’s marketing promotion with a transgender influencer was marketing beer to kids.
“The level of cooperation the Committee receives will bear significantly on my assessment of whether this is part of a broader problem across the Anheuser-Busch InBev product line and whether changes to federal law are necessary to prohibit Anheuser-Busch InBev from marketing beer to children,” the Republican senator wrote in a letter (pdf) to Anheuser-Busch InBev CEO Michael Doukeris last week, claiming that AB InBev hasn’t sent over the documents three months after he asked the firm.
Mr. Cruz is seeking communications between the company and the transgender influencer, Dylan Mulvaney, as well as social media content scripts, the firm’s corporate policy for advertising, and data the beer company possesses on the age demographics of the influencer’s following on social media.
The senator made note of Code Compliance Review Board (CCRB) member’s dissenting opinion that found that “Mulvaney appeals to persons below the legal drinking age with a ‘special attractiveness’ … is especially attractive to young teens and girls; is often recognized as preadolescent; and caters to very young people.” Ultimately, the CCRB majority found there was nothing in the Instagram posts that would “have special attractiveness below the legal drinking age,” according to its report.
The board also found that the influencer’s audience age demographics were more than 80 percent aged 21 or older. The board has a compliance standard of over 73 percent.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) speaks on Title 42 immigration policy in Washington, on May 3, 2023. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)
“Moreover, even now that the CCRB has completed its review, Anheuser-Busch persists in refusing to provide the requested documents,15 revealing plainly that the ongoing CCRB review was never the real reason for Anheuser-Busch’s refusal to cooperate. Anheuser-Busch is now suggesting that CCRB review was sufficient, and that it need not cooperate with congressional document requests,” said Mr. Cruz’s letter.
“This position is untenable; Anheuser-Busch does not decide whether and when a congressional investigation is concluded.”
Giving Anheuser-Busch an Aug. 29 deadline to comply, his letter said that “these dilatory tactics by your subsidiary must end. Otherwise, Anheuser-Busch InBev will leave Congress no choice but to infer this obstructionism is intended to shield inculpatory information from the Committee’s investigation.”
But in a statement to the Washington Times, Anheuser-Busch said it takes “its role in promoting responsible drinking very seriously, and our marketing is directed to adults of legal drinking age.”
Over the past several months, Bud Light’s sales have seen weekly declines following the Mulvaney social media posts were made as conservatives called for a boycott of the brand, accusing it of caving in to “woke” culture. Last week, an analyst forecast that Bud Light will not see its prospects improve in 2023.
“We assume no recovery in Bud Light [this year],” RBC Capital Markets analyst James Jones wrote in a note this week, according to Yahoo Finance.
Recent sales data show that retail-store dollar sales of the brand dropped 26.1 percent in the week ending July 15 and 26.8 percent in the week ending July 22, compared with the previous year. At the same time, the beer lost its No. 1 spot to Modelo Especial in May and June, according to figures.
In May, the CEO of AB-InBev, Michel Doukeris, attempted to distance the beer brand with the Mulvaney incident and said that only “one can” with the influencer’s face was produced.
“It was one post. It was not an advertisement,” Mr. Doukeris told Financial Times in May.
The influencer was not part of an official marketing campaign, Mr. Doukeris said. He added that social media-driven “misinformation” and “confusion” were part of the problem without elaborating.