Why is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis threatening to sue Anheuser-Busch over the Bud Light campaign?
DeSantis says that AB InBev “may have breached legal duties owed to shareholders” and wants a full investigation into the company’s commercial relationship with TikTok star Dylan Mulvaney.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is contemplating taking legal action against Anheuser-Busch InBev, Bud Light’s parent company, for their marketing project starring transgender TikTok star Dylan Mulvaney.
Mulvaney is a 26-year-old actress and comedian, who has been documenting her transitioning process and exploring her identity in a video diary entitled Days of Girlhood. She currently has 10.7 million followers on TikTok.
In April, she was hired by Anheuser-Busch to advertise their Easy Carry Contest - a promotion encouraging customers to upload videos of themselves carrying as many cans of beer as they could manage. In the sponsored video, Mulvaney appears dressed in full Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s attire, instructing viewers on how they could win a $15,000 cash prize. At the same time, the beer company released a limited edition run of Pride-themed cans, championing LGBTQIA2S+ community members with the slogan, “Whatever camp you’re in, you in?”
The video was not viewed well by right wingers, who boycotted the brand and Bud Light sales tumbled by 23.6% in year-on-year figures and continue to tank. Anheuser-Busch InBev immediately attempted to distance itself from the video, claiming that it was not a strategic campaign but a one-off post involving a well-known influencer (“One can, one social media post, one influencer”).
On 4 May, Anheuser-Busch InBev CEO Michel Doukeris was asked about the Mulvaney video post during the company’s Q1 earnings conference call. Doukeris replied to a question by analyst Rob Ottenstein about how the frenzy started and what has been learned: “To start, we need to understand the current environment and especially social media landscape. And how consumer brands, especially big brands with significant reach, can be pulled into a discussion like this one.
“One challenge is what you call the misinformation and confusion that still exists. We will need to continue to clarify the fact that this was one can, one influencer, one post, and not a campaign, and repeat this message for some time. But as we do that, we are more focused on leveraging our global experience and mobilizing our global resources to support the U.S. team as we move forward,” he explained.
Florida exposed to Bud Light boycott
But the controversy continues to linger. Last week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis urged his state government to launch an investigation into Anheuser-Busch InBev and its commercial relationship with Mulvaney. He argued that the boycott of Bud Light, huge slump in sales and downturn in stock prices has a direct effect on the state’s pension fund, which holds a substantial number of InBev shares - reportedly 682,000 valued at $53 million, according to Fortune.
“When you start pursuing a political agenda at the expense of your shareholders, that’s not just impacting very wealthy people. It impacts hardworking people who were police officers, firefighters and teachers in terms of the pension,” he told Fox News. “So we’re going to be launching an inquiry about Bud Light and InBev, and it could be something that leads to a derivative lawsuit filed on behalf of the shareholders of the Florida pension fund because at the end of the day, there’s got to be penalties when you put business aside to focus on your social agenda at the expense of hardworking people.”
In a letter to Lamar Taylor at Florida’s State Board of Administration (SBA), DeSantis claimed that AB InBev “may have breached legal duties owed to shareholders, and that shareholder action may be both appropriate and necessary.”