Heineken CEO Dolf van den Brink discussed Monday what he thinks brands should do in terms of marketing after Bud Light received backlash for its partnership with transgender influence Dylan Mulvaney.
Van den Brink told CNBC that brands “have to be thoughtful” and “be balanced,” adding, “And at the same time, you need to stand for your values and principles.” That, he said, was something Heineken tries to do “to the best of our abilities.”
“So far, I’m proud of how our brand teams across our operating companies are navigating this new world,” he told the outlet.
The backlash that Bud Light and maker Anheuser-Busch have been experiencing started in early April, not long after the company created and sent custom beer cans to Mulvaney to mark “365 days of girlhood.”
The Heineken CEO also noted his company has observed “a lot of polarization in society” that was “particularly in the Western world,” which he said was “affecting all players, all actors in society.” Businesses and brands have been impacted too, according to van de Brink.
Additionally, van den Brink told CNBC that the company was “ramping up our marketing and selling expenses very significantly by 0.2 billion in the first half of the year” despite “all the challenges outgoing.”
“We do that to really make sure we invest in future growth, support our brands and innovation.”
In reaction to the Mulvaney partnership, some beer drinkers swore off Bud Light and switched to other brands. FOX Business reported, citing Evercore ISI data, that sales volumes for Bud Light had experienced a roughly 27% plunge in the 12-week period leading up to July 2.
Modelo Especial beat out Bud Light to become the top-selling beer in the U.S. on a dollar basis for a four-week period ending June 3, based on NielsenIQ data previously provided to FOX Business, though the Anheuser-Busch brand maintained its status for sales year-to-date.
That happened “a little sooner than we had anticipated,” Constellation Brands CEO Bill Newlands said in late June.
Anheuser-Busch said in mid-June that it “recognize[d] that over the last two months, the discussion surrounding our company and Bud Light has moved away from beer, and this has impacted our consumers, our business partners, and our employees.”
The company said, “We hear you” to its customers and told them they can “look forward to Bud Light reinforcing what you’ve always loved about our brand — that it’s easy to drink and easy to enjoy.”
Eric Revell contributed to this report.