Bud Light, Target continue to support Pride events despite boycott calls


June 5, 2023 | 15:15

Target and Bud Light continue to sponsor events during Pride Month, despite widespread calls to boycott the brands for their advertising and marketing strategies that cater to LGBTQ audiences.

Target, the national retail chain, and Bud Light’s parent company, Anheuser-Busch, faced backlash for their efforts to appeal to the LGBTQ community, only to receive more criticism when they tried to back down.

But even as they battle negative publicity, Target and Bud Light haven’t shyed away from this year’s Pride celebrations.

Target is a platinum sponsor of NYC Pride, which requires a donation of $175,000.

And Bud Light’s father, Anheuser-Busch, is a sponsor of Pride celebrations in Chicago, San Francisco, Charlotte and other places.

Many other big companies are also sticking to their sponsorships, including PepsiCo, Starbucks, General Motors and Jeep parent Stellantis, all of which said they’ve been supporting Pride events for decades and aren’t hesitating to back them again this year.

Target has long marketed to the LGBTQ community.

Bud Light continues to sponsor events during Pride Month despite boycott calls.
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But it recently found itself in the crosshairs when angry customers toppled Pride displays and threatened staff at some stores.

Target ended up removing certain items, much to the dismay of LGBTQ supporters.

Six weeks earlier, transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney revealed on social media that Bud Light had sent her a commemorative tin emblazoned with her photo.

Boycott threats followed immediately, pushed by conservative commentators like Matt Walsh, who has 1.9 million followers on Twitter.

Kohl’s, Lego and Southwest Airlines have also come under fire for their LGBTQ-friendly marketing in recent days.

The reaction has produced real consequences.

Bud Light’s marketing partnership with transgender social media influencer Dylan Mulvaney ignited boycott calls.

In the month ending May 13, US Bud Light sales fell 23%, according to Bump Williams Consulting.

Target’s shares have plunged 20% since mid-May, wiping out $15 billion in market value, though that’s partly due to investor concerns about the impact of inflation on shoppers.

Some Pride organizations had already distanced themselves from Bud Light because they felt it wasn’t doing enough to support the LGBTQ community beyond the block parties in June.

When Anheuser-Busch’s multi-year sponsorship deal with Miami Beach Pride ended in 2021, the organization signed a new multi-year deal with Molson Coors.

Robert Legere, director of sponsorships for Miami Beach Pride, noted that Molson Coors’ Vizzy brand made a $1 million donation to the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ group.

Target, the national retailer, is also sponsoring Pride events this month.
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“We don’t blindly say, ‘Oh sure, we’ll take your money.’ We want to make sure companies are clear about why they want to participate,” Legere said.

Others, like San Francisco Pride, are sticking with Bud Light but bracing for backlash from attendees who think the brand should have done more to support Mulvaney.

Ford, the chief executive, said Anheuser-Busch has been a longtime sponsor and increased its donation to San Francisco Pride this year.

The group relies on its sponsors to keep its two-day, $3 million festival free, Ford said, and its labor and security costs are skyrocketing.

Target was criticized for selling “crease-friendly” swimsuits as part of its “PRIDE” collection.

“There is some tension and we will be watching it. But locally, they have been very supportive,” she said.

In his hometown of St. Louis, Bud Light will sponsor Pride’s main stage and provide the beer for the VIP tent, said Jordan Braxton, director of diversity, inclusion and outreach for Pride St. Louis.

“Times can be tough, but they’re with us and we’re with them,” Braxton said.

“They have been supporting us for years. It’s not our fault you woke up and realized it.

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