(The Center Square) – Two Republican lawmakers have launched an investigation into Anheuser-Busch over alleged marketing of alcohol to teenagers.
U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., launched an investigation to determine if the American brewing company headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri, was targeting teenagers in a recent Bud Light marketing and advertising campaign when the legal drinking age is 21.
They did so after the multi-billion dollar company partnered with a “social media influencer,” Dylan Mulvaney, by putting an image of Mulvaney, a biological man dressed like a girl, on a Bud Light beer can stating, “365 Days of Girlhood.”
The marketing scheme resulted in public backlash, two Anheuser-Busch executives being put on leave, and record financial losses and retail sales down by 23% within weeks, CBS News reported.
The company defended its campaign, with a spokesperson telling Fox News this week, “Anheuser-Busch works with hundreds of influencers across our brands as one of many ways to authentically connect with audiences across various demographics. From time to time we produce unique commemorative cans for fans and for brand influencers, like Dylan Mulvaney. This commemorative can was a gift to celebrate a personal milestone and is not for sale to the general public.”
Unconvinced, the Republican senators sent a letter to Brendan Whitworth, the U.S. CEO of Anheuser-Busch, who’s also the chairman and senior director of the Beer Institute, requesting that he provide information they requested, sever ties with Mulvaney and direct the Beer Institute to launch an investigation.
The evidence they included in the letter “overwhelmingly shows” that “Mulvaney’s audience skews significantly younger than the legal drinking age and violates the Beer Institute’s Advertising/Marketing Code and Buying Guidelines.”
They urged Whitworth “to avoid a lengthy investigation by the Beer Institute by instead having Anheuser-Busch publicly sever its relationship with Dylan Mulvaney, publicly apologize to the American people for marketing alcoholic beverages to minors, and direct Dylan Mulvaney to remove any Anheuser-Busch content from his social media platforms.”
“Anheuser-Busch’s clear failure to exercise appropriate due diligence when selecting online influencers for its marketing efforts warrants detailed oversight by Congress,” they said.
They raised concerns about the company partnering with Mulvaney, who is “infamous for the ‘series titled ‘Days of Girlhood’ which ‘received over 750 million views in less than 100 days,’” they said. “Mulvaney’s ‘Days of Girlhood’ series should have been the first red flag to Anheuser-Busch that it was entering into a partnership with an individual whose audience skews impermissibly below the Beer Institute’s proscribed guidelines,” they argued.
Mulvaney using the phrase “‘girlhood’ was not a slip of the tongue but rather emblematic of a series of Mulvaney’s online content that was specifically used to target, market to, and attract an audience of young people who are well below the legal drinking age in the United States,” they wrote.
In the letter, they cite evidence to support their claim including videos Mulvaney posted on social media that received millions of views. They include one of Mulvaney lip-syncing a song, “‘I am Eloise, I am six’ while dressed as a small child;” another of Mulvaney at a mall “giving away merchandise and cash to teenage girls, at least one of whom was still in braces;” and another of Mulvaney shopping at Target for Barbie dolls.
“An objective survey of Dylan Mulvaney’s content clearly presents a faux, pre-pubescent girl persona that is created and presented to specifically appeal to young viewers,” the senators wrote.
The letter also cites a New York Post article, in which Anheuser-Busch’s VP of Marketing reportedly said, “I’m a businesswoman. I had a really clear job to do when I took over Bud Light, and it was ‘This brand is in decline, it’s been in a decline for a really long time, and if we do not attract young drinkers to come and drink this brand there will be no future for Bud Light.’”
Whitworth has yet to issue a public statement in response to the letter and the company has yet to issue an additional response to its justification of the marketing campaign last week.