These companies kept up LGBTQ advertising despite risk of consumer boycotts

Backlash against Bud Light and Target raised concern but marketing continued.

November 2, 2023, 3:54 PM

Weeks after a Bud Light endorsement from trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney unleashed a torrent of online vitriol that escalated into a widespread anti-LGBTQ boycott, Anheuser-Busch had yet to contact her about it, she said.

"I was waiting for the brand to reach out," Mulvaney said on Instagram in June. "They never did."

Anheuser-Busch did not respond to ABC News' request for comment about its communication with Mulvaney.

A company spokesperson pointed to a previous statement, which said: "As we've said, we remain committed to the programs and partnerships we have forged over decades with organizations across a number of communities, including those in the LGBTQ+ community."

The sentiment from Mulvaney echoed wider concern among advocates about a potential chilling effect for LGBTQ-inclusive advertising in the aftermath of the financially damaging boycott against Bud Light, as well as another against Target over its Pride display.

The consumer backlash has elicited concern among corporations about threats to their bottom line posed by such marketing, since a fraught political environment had appeared to transform previously routine ads into lightning rods, advertising consultants, academics and an LGBTQ advocate told ABC News.

But, they added, the prevalence of LGBTQ-inclusive advertising in recent months has largely resembled that of previous years, though some noted a drop-off since the early summer that they attributed to an seasonal trend as the calendar moves away from Pride month in June.

"It has been more or less the same," Michael Wilke, founder of AdRespect, an archive of LGBTQ representation in marketing, told ABC News about the volume of ads in the aftermath of the boycotts.

Companies often plan their ad campaigns more than a year in advance, leaving them few options to change course after the boycotts took effect besides cancellations that could have yielded negative press, Wilke said. While companies have become aware of heightened risk in LGBTQ-inclusive advertising, he added, they also face dangers if they forgo such marketing.

"I'm sure there are at least some companies that have pulled back but brands can't stick with one demographic and continue to grow," Wilke said, noting the ascendance of Gen Z and millennial consumers as they get older and the corresponding retreat of elderly clientele. "As your audience ages, you need to continue to appeal to new audiences."

More than one in five Gen Z adults identify as LGBTQ, a Gallup poll found in February. Ten percent of millennials surveyed felt the same way. By comparison, less than 3% of Baby Boomers identified as LGBTQ in the poll.

The worldwide spending power of LGBTQ consumers amounts to $4.7 trillion, research firm LGBT Capital found last year.

"In many ways companies have continued doing what they would in any other year," Lightning Czabovsky, a professor of public relations at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, told ABC News. He cited the tendency for companies to carry over ad strategies from previous years as well as the need to appeal to a diverse set of consumers.

Maybelline, for instance, partnered in July with Ryan Vita, a beauty influencer who uses they/them pronouns. A month before, Tennessee-based restaurant chain Cracker Barrel posted a photo on Instagram of the signature rocking chairs it places outside of stores, one of which was painted with the rainbow colors affiliated with the LGBTQ community.

Hilton, Westin, Delta Airlines and Amtrak are among a slew of companies that have drawn attention this year for LGBTQ-inclusive ads, Wilke said.

Here are some prominent companies that have put forward LGBT-inclusive ads despite the consumer backlash against Bud Light and Target:


Levi's has elevated the LGBTQ community and its concerns as a key part of its advertising footprint.

Over consecutive days in October, the company put forward Instagram posts celebrating National Coming Out Day and highlighting a partnership with London, England-based LGBTQ museum Queer London.

In June, Levi's partnered with advocacy groups Human Rights Campaign and GLAAD on public statements affirming the company's support for the LGBTQ community and opposition to anti-LGBTQ legislation.

Such support for the LGBTQ community stretches back more than 30 years, the company said.

In turn, the persistence of LGBTQ-inclusive messaging in recent months should come as no surprise, Wilke said: "They've been doing it forever."

Levi's declined to respond to ABC News' request for comment.

Dylan Mulvaney attends the Attitude Awards 2023 at The Roundhouse, Oct. 11, 2023, in London.
Mike Marsland/WireImage/Getty Images


Harry's, a grooming products company, has shown a commitment to pro-LGBTQ marketing throughout the year, as evidenced by the continued availability of its "Pride Shave Set" long after Pride month.

Profits generated by the Pride products go to the Trevor Project, a nonprofit focused on suicide prevention for the LGBTQ community.

"We're grateful to work with them and support the LGBTQ community year-round," the Harry's website says.

Vanitha Swaminathan, a professor of marketing at the University of Pittsburgh who studies politically inflected advertising, said the marketing approach at Harry's stems in part from the company's pursuit of young consumers.

"They want to appeal to a demographic of future consumers who on average support these inclusive campaigns," Swaminathan told ABC News.

Harry's did not respond to ABC News' request for comment.

The North Face

The North Face drew attention in May when it partnered on "The Summer of Pride," a series of in-person events with drag queen Pattie Gonia, an environmental and LGBTQ activist.

Spanning from July to September, the nationwide set of hikes and workshops displayed support for the LGBTQ community long after the high-profile consumer boycotts, which began in the spring.

"It's me, Pattie Gonia, a real-life homosexual, and I'm here with The North Face," Gonia said in an Instagram post promoting the series. "We are here to invite you to come out in nature with us."

Wilke, of AdRespect, said North Face has undertaken an approach similar to Harry's, as both companies attempt to distinguish their brands in part through liberal political messaging.

"They're both following the effort to create progressive cutting-edge advertising that helps them cut through in a crowded marketplace," Wilke said.

In response to ABC News' request for comment, The North Face expressed its commitment to an inclusive community for those who enjoy the outdoors.

"The North Face has always believed the outdoors should be a welcoming, equitable and safe place for all," the company said in a statement. "Creating community and belonging in the outdoors is a core part of our values and is needed now more than ever."