It’s Pride Month in the United States, which means that, over the coming weeks, many an American brand will suddenly discover its love for LGBTQ customers—or at least, the social cachet that cozying up with relatively safe LGBTQ causes currently affords. While liquor brands have long been associated with Pride event sponsorships and rainbow-colored barware (vodka purveyor Absolut debuted a trans-affirming ad last month), this year Bud Light has, in a somewhat unexpected turn, joined the throng.
In an ad released on June 1, Anheuser-Busch InBev had current mascots Amy Schumer and Seth Rogen take their “Bud Light Party” campaign to the gay wedding of Steve and Greg. After the pair spend the bulk of the 30-second spot assuring audiences that same-sex weddings are just like straight ones, Rogen intones the brand’s allyship—“Bud Light proudly supports everyone’s right to marry whoever they want!”—about a year later than would have been useful.
If I sound a touch jaded about something that is, on balance, probably a good thing, it’s because this particular synergistic matchup between a brand and LGBTQ rights feels even more cynical than normal. A Wall Street Journal piece about the ad notes that it will only air for one night in the queer-friendly markets of New York and California. And moreover, the move seems to be more about tapping new markets in the face of declining sales than any authentic commitment to equality. From the Journal:
But the world’s largest brewer has decided it needs to be bold to reverse flagging sales of Bud Light and Budweiser. It has lost 5.2 percentage points of market share in the U.S. since 2008, falling to a 43.6% share, according to industry tracker Beer Marketer’s Insights. …
[T]he new Schumer-Rogen spot is designed to highlight Bud Light’s appeal across a more diverse group of beer drinkers, ranging from Hispanics to gays to women—and younger ones. Millennial drinkers are far more supportive of LGBT rights than baby boomers, with more than 70% favoring same-sex marriage compared with 46%, according to the Pew Research Center.
While the ad does risk alienating some of the Bud-swigging bros out there—and indeed, New York magazine already found aggrieved tweets from said bros—its limited release, timed as it is alongside a broader brotastic campaign of actually replacing Budweiser with America on some cans, is precisely calibrated to mitigate any real damage.
But hey, perhaps I’m just a bitter queen. Maybe the (other) gays will like it? I promise to do some on-the-ground research at the queer bars—where I don’t think I’ve ever seen an unironic Bud Light drunk—this weekend. But in the meantime, this quote from a gay colleague might offer some clues: “Curious, this notion that gays would serve Bud Light at a wedding.”