- Text D1A Staff
- Photography Irina Efremova
In early April, trans influencer, advocate and actress, Dylan Mulvaney, celebrated March Madness and one year of womanhood via an Instagram video where she drank Bud Light after the brand gifted her a can with her image on it. The post also promoted a chance to win $15,000 if users shared the video. When the post elicited hateful backlash and a boycott of Bud Light from a small but vocal faction of anti-trans people online, the brand’s sales declined. Instead of Bud Light doubling down on their support for the LGBTQQIP2SA+ community and confirming its alignment with Mulvaney, they distanced themselves.
Anheuser-Busch’s CEO Brendan Whitworth released a statement that said, “We never intended to be part of a discussion that divides people. We are in the business of bringing people together over beer…Moving forward, I will continue to work tirelessly to bring great beers to consumers across our nation.”
Rather than take a stance to support the LGBTQQIP2SA+ community, this language strives to please everyone by opting for neutrality, therefore accomplishing little. As Pride approaches—and in the aftermath of this controversy—two Day One Agency employees, Senior Director, Creators & Casting, Kristin Gramlich and VP, Creators & Casting, Bill Blatchley, had an opportunity to weigh in on how brands can get it right via Campaign U.S.’ recently published story, written by Bailey Calfee, about what consumers can expect from Pride partnerships this June.
What do you think the Bud Light situation will mean for Pride activations? Have brands been showing hesitancy to work with trans creatives?
Bill Blatchley: It’s very “one step forward, two steps back.” Bud Light did this amazing thing on a big stage, but they didn’t stand their ground. Their response in the aftermath set things in the wrong direction instead and negated the work they did. It’s inevitably caused hesitancy and risk in the eyes of stakeholders’ and brands overall. For brands that do want to participate in Pride, it’s going to force them not to venture too far from the safe zone—which is disappointing.
What is the best strategy for brands that have historically activated around Pride? How will it come across if they do not work with trans talent?
Bill Blatchley: The strategy around Pride hasn't changed for brands unfortunately—no matter how much agencies and partners have encouraged them to activate throughout the entire year. Brands need to give their support to the entire queer community—not just one letter in the acronym. They need to invest in long term plans that uplift and support everyone throughout the entire year, not just the month of June.
Kristi Gramlich: The best strategy is further diversifying talent, showcasing that there is a different queer for everyone. “One token gay” isn't a strong strategy. One queer person doesn’t represent the entire queer community. But building the campaign around a person—leaning fully into who they are and letting them run your program—will build a stronger narrative that consumers will more authentically relate to.
Brands need to give their support to the entire queer community—not just one letter in the acronym. They need to invest in long-term plans that uplift and support everyone throughout the entire year, not just the month of June.- Bill Blatchley, VP, Creators & Casting
The best strategy is further diversifying talent, showcasing that there is a different queer for everyone. ‘One token gay’ isn't a strong strategy. One queer person doesn’t represent the entire queer community. But building the campaign around a person–leaning fully into who they are and letting them run your program—will build a stronger narrative that consumers will more authentically relate to.- Kristi Gramlich, Senior Director, Creators & Casting
What steps should brands take to ensure they’re coming across as authentically supportive of the LGBTQQIA2S+ and the trans communities in particular?
Kristi Gramlich: BACK IT. I would have hired 50 more trans creators to show support for the community. If it was already a big deal, Bud Light could have made it an even bigger deal.
Bill Blatchley: It’s a long term plan with long term investment. Authenticity requires follow through and next steps and ongoing representation. It’s setting up internal groups, diversification at all levels and backing those choices. Brands have a Pride activation one minute and the next they are donating to politicians and other organizations that are trying to strip the queer community of their fundamental rights. They need to make it a permanent part of their business to uplift and push the community forward. In working with Dylan, she became an extension of their team who they left out to dry. What message does that send to their own employees?
What is the risk of brands backing away from partnerships with LGBTQQIA2S+ creatives, and trans creatives in particular, this coming Pride? What are the potential payoffs that can result from aligning with them?
Bill Blatchley: For brands, as painful as it is to say, there are no repercussions from not working with LGBTQQIA2S+ creatives. On the flip side, there's a huge detriment for creators. I don't need to harp on how much representation matters—I think we all get it. But it’s on us as marketers and leaders to make sure we find those voices with different backgrounds and not only put them in the spotlight, but also ensure they are getting paid, and fairly.
Last thoughts: Bill Blatchley: Gen Z is coming into their own now and will soon own purchasing power. They are not going to support brands that don’t care about the issues they care about. If they don’t support you, they’ll tell you and back that with their wallets. They have no brand affinity if your brand has a misstep.