Bud Light maker Anheuser-Busch said on Tuesday that two of its executives were on leave after the beer was featured in a social media promotion by a transgender influencer.
Bud Light sales plummeted amid calls for a boycott due to publicity and criticism of the company’s response to the backlash, which included the targeted harassment of one of the executives who is on furlough.
Alissa Heinerscheid, vice president of marketing for Bud Light, and Daniel Blake, who oversees marketing for Anheuser-Busch’s consumer brands, were on leave, the company said in a statement.
“We’ve made some adjustments to streamline the structure of our marketing function to reduce layers so that our most experienced marketers are more closely connected to all aspects of our brands’ businesses,” Anheuser-Busch said in a statement. communicated. “These steps will help us stay focused on what we do best: brewing great beer for all consumers, while always having a positive impact on our communities and our country.
The corporate turmoil began on April 1, when a transgender influencer, Dylan Mulvaney, posted a video on her Instagram account promoting a Bud Light March Madness contest to her 1.8 million followers. In her post, which was less than a minute long, she said the company sent her a can of Bud Light with her face on it. An image of the box has been edited into the video.
Within days, celebrities and conservative politicians called for a boycott of the brand. These calls were then followed by calls for a reverse boycott, or buycott, encouraging people to buy Bud Light to show their support for the marketing.
Brendan Whitworth, chief executive of Anheuser-Busch InBev, indirectly addressed the controversy in an April 14 statement.
“We never intended to be part of a discussion that divides people,” he said. “Our job is to bring people together over a beer.
This has not overpowered criticism of Bud Light, which has swelled to include complaints about its lukewarm response to the backlash, as well as targeted harassment of Ms Heinerscheid.
Advertisement critics with Ms Mulvaney had found a podcast interview from March in which Ms Heinerscheid said some of Bud Light’s previous adverts had “a smashing, sort of disconnected humour” and that the company would need some be more inclusive so that its demography grows. As quotes from the podcast circulated, The Daily Caller, The New York Post and The Daily Mail published photos of Ms Heinerscheid at a college party in 2006.
Ms. Heinerscheid and Mr. Blake could not immediately be reached for comment.
News of the executive departures began to circulate after an article about Ms Heinerscheid on Friday in Beer Business Daily, a trade publication, and another about her superior, Mr Blake, on Sunday in the Wall Street Journal.
The controversy had a negative effect on Bud Light sales, which fell 17% in the week ending April 15, Beer Business Daily said.
In the United States, the beer industry is dominated by two major brewers who control 65% of beer sales: the Molson Coors Beverage Company, which owns well-known brands such as Coors and Miller, and Anheuser-Busch InBev, which also owns Corona and Michelob.
Just over 20 years ago, beer accounted for about half of alcohol sales in the country. Last year, that market share was around 42%, with sales of gin, vodka and other spirits rising sharply in recent years.
Anheuser-Busch, which introduced non-alcoholic and canned cocktails, said its North American beer sales fell 4% last year.
Bump Williams, who runs an alcoholic beverage consultancy, said he was beginning to worry the Bud Light controversy could cause a negative “halo effect” around Anheuser-Busch’s other brands, many of which have seen their sales drop slightly.
Harry Schumacher, the publisher of Beer Business Daily, said that as sales of Bud Light fell, they rose almost dollar for dollar for its competitors Miller Lite and Coors Light.
Mr Schuhmacher said the situation was “terrible” in the short term for Bud Light, but was likely to have less effect on the company’s long-term business as the brand was already in decline. “It just steepens that decline curve that was already happening,” he said.
He said the popularity of different brands of beer tends to vary across generations and that Bud Light is experiencing the breakdown of this cycle.
“It’s been going on since Prohibition was repealed,” he said. “And the marks pass about every 20 to 30 years.”
He said there could be a “silver lining” for the company since the controversy has garnered so much media attention.
“They apparently took a stand although they didn’t really support it well,” Schuhmacher said. “They threw him out there and hid, which I think is unfair to Dylan and kind of unfair to the trans community.”
Bud Light’s criticism came as Republican state lawmakers proposed legislation to regulate the lives of transgender youth, restrict drag shows in a way that could broadly encompass performances by transgender people, and compel schools to remove transgender students from their parents.
Ms Mulvaney documented her transition on TikTok, where she has more than 10.8 million followers. In March, she celebrated one year of her “Days of Girlhood” series.
Anheuser-Busch said earlier this month that it “works with hundreds of our brands’ influencers as one of many ways to authentically connect with audiences of different demographics” and gave Ms Mulvaney a personalized box with her face on it to “celebrate a personal event”. milestone.”
Ms Mulvaney did not respond to the Bud Light uproar but did address the hostility she faced in an interview on the ‘Onward With Rosie O’Donnell’ podcast which was released amid the backlash. She’s “an easy target,” she said, “because I’m still new to this.”