Budweiser U.K.’s Pride campaign raises flags, and not just rainbow ones

In the U.S., Bud Light will partner with GLAAD in June to to launch its first-ever rainbow aluminum bottle.
Graphic: Bud Light

Now that it’s Pride Month, and there’s money to be made from the LGBTQ community’s June-long celebration of itself, its history, and the many struggles and countless losses it’s endured to earn that celebration, brands are showing up in full force. Major chains like Target have entire Pride merchandise sections in certain locations. SoulCycle is in the midst of a wave of Pride-friendly marketing. And over in the U.K., Budweiser’s latest campaign seeks to enlighten drinkers about the full diversity of gender expressions and sexualities:

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A quick trip through Budweiser U.K.’s feed reveals extrapolations of each of the above images, touching on non-binary identities, asexuality, and several other LGBTQ groups too often excluded from mainstream conversations about gender and sexuality. And on its face, bereft of further context, it’s an admirable enough gesture for a global company on the level of Anheuser-Busch to try and inform the public in this way, especially when you stop to consider the largely heterosexual legacy (sometimes aggressively so) of beer marketing in general.

In one sense, it’s a substantial leap forward for visibility. But in another, no marketing exists in a vacuum, and as many have pointed out in recent years, companies employing Pride-centric marketing is only as good as the companies’ efforts to consistently uplift and protect the community, rather than simply popping up once a year when there’s money to be made. In the U.S., Bud Light has partnered with GLAAD on rainbow aluminum cans; for every case of rainbow bottles sold, Bud Light will donate $1 to GLAAD, up to $150,000.

That’s just the face of it, and while we don’t have the time within the boundaries of this humble Newswire to fully address the nuances of further issues like binge drinking as an overly common cornerstone of LGBTQ social scenes, the responses to the Budweiser campaign have been expectedly divided.

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There’s also the usual deluge of homophobes braying about nothing being sacred anymore, but some signals aren’t worth boosting. Regardless, Budweiser has inadvertently (or, to think about it cynically, perhaps not) found itself in the position of being both a major corporation working its way into a revolutionary political dialogue, and one doing it when a sizable chunk of the global population is still unprepared for the acknowledgement of differences being “shoved in its faces.”

It’s a new world out there, friends. Celebrate Pride however you see fit, and take care of the people who need it most.

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