Anheuser-Busch InBev will continue to support the LGBTQ community despite backlash over a Bud Light advertising campaign featuring a transgender influencer that has simmered for nearly three months, CEO Brendan Whitworth said Wednesday.
Bud Light should be "all about bringing people together," he told "CBS Mornings."
"I think the conversation surrounding Bud Light has moved away from beer, and the conversation has become divisive," Whitworth said. "And Bud Light really doesn’t belong there."
AB InBev, the parent company of Bud Light, drew criticism from conservative activists and consumers for hiring transgender social media influencer Dylan Mulvaney for a promotional March Madness campaign.
Many Bud Light customers also responded negatively to comments made by Vice President of Marketing Alissa Heinerscheid on a recent podcast that included calling on the brand to be more “inclusive.”
Whitworth sidestepped a question about whether the Mulvaney campaign was a mistake.
“There’s a big social conversation taking place right now, and big brands are right in the middle of it and it’s not just our industry or Bud Light," he said. "It’s happening in retail, happening in fast food.
"And so for us what we need to understand — deeply understand and appreciate — is the consumer and what they want, what they care about and what they expect from big brands,” he added.
The hit to AB InBev’s business marks one of the few times in recent years that online backlash has led to a notable and sustained slump for a major brand.