2 Bud Light executives on leave after promotion with Dylan Mulvaney

The maker of Bud Light, Anheuser-Busch, said Tuesday that two of its executives were on leave after the beer was featured in a social media campaign by a transgender influencer.

Bud Light’s sales have fallen amid calls for a boycott over the advertising and criticism of the company’s response to the backlash, which included the targeted harassment of one of its executives who is on leave.

Alissa Heinerscheid, vice president of marketing for Bud Light, and Daniel Blake, who oversees marketing for Anheuser-Busch’s mainstream brands, were on leave, the company said in a statement.

“We have made some adjustments to streamline the structure of our marketing function to reduce layers so that our most senior marketers are more closely connected to all aspects of our brands’ activities,” Anheuser-Busch said in a statement. “These steps will help us stay focused on the things we do best: brewing great beer for all consumers, while always making a positive impact in our communities and on our country.”

The company’s 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 had sent her a tallboy can of Bud Light with her face on it. A picture of the box was edited into the video.

Within days, conservative celebrities and 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 support for the marketing.

Brendan Whitworth, CEO 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. “We’re in the business of bringing people together over a beer.”

This did not quell criticism of Bud Light, which grew to include complaints about its lukewarm response to the setback, as well as the targeted harassment of Heinerscheid.

Critics of the ad featuring Mulvaney had found a March podcast interview in which Heinerscheid said some of Bud Light’s previous ads had “scary, kind of untouchable humor” and that the company needed to be more. inclusive for its demographics to grow. As the podcast quotes circulated, The Daily Caller, The New York Post and The Daily Mail published photos of Heinerscheid at a college party in 2006.

Heinerscheid and Blake could not immediately be reached for comment.

News of the executives’ sheets began circulating after a report 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 has had a negative effect on Bud Light’s sales, which fell 17 percent in the week ending April 15, Beer Business Daily said.

In the United States, the beer industry is dominated by two large brewers that control 65 percent of beer sales: Molson Coors Beverage Company, which owns well-known brands including Coors and Miller, and Anheuser-Busch InBev, which also owns Corona and Michelob.

A little more than 20 years ago, beer accounted for about half of alcohol turnover in the country. Last year, that market share was around 42 percent, as sales of gin, vodka and other spirits have grown strongly in recent years.

Anheuser-Busch, which has introduced non-alcoholic and canned cocktail drinks, reported that beer sales in North America fell 4 percent last year.

Bump Williams, who runs an alcoholic beverage consulting firm, said he was beginning to worry that the Bud Light controversy could result in a negative “halo effect” around Anheuser-Busch’s other brands, many of which saw small sales declines.

Harry Schuhmacher, the publisher of Beer Business Daily, said that as sales of Bud Light have fallen, they have risen almost dollar for dollar for competitors Miller Lite and Coors Light.

Mr. Schuhmacher said the situation was “terrible” in the short term for Bud Light, but that it was likely to have less of an effect on the company’s long-term business because the brand was already in decline. “This just makes the downward curve that has already happened,” he said.

He said the popularity of different beer brands tends to vary by generation, and Bud Light is experiencing the decline in that cycle.

“It has been going on since the ban was lifted,” he said. “And brands go through about every 20 to 30 years.”

He said there could be a “silver lining” for the company since the controversy has attracted so much media attention.

“They apparently took a stand even though they didn’t really support it very well,” Mr. Schuhmacher said. “They threw it out there and hid, which I think is unfair to Dylan and a little bit unfair to the trans community.”

Criticism of Bud Light came as Republican lawmakers in the state are proposing legislation that seeks to regulate the lives of transgender youth, restrict drag shows in a way that can largely include transgender performances, and require schools to send out transgender people to their parents.

Mulvaney has documented her transition on TikTok, where she has more than 10.8 million followers. In March, she celebrated one year with her “Days of Girlhood” series.

Anheuser-Busch said earlier this month that it “works with hundreds of influencers across our brands as one of many ways to authentically connect with audiences across different demographics” and presented Mulvaney with a personalized box with his face on it to “celebrate a personal milestone.”

Mulvaney has not responded to the Bud Light uproar, but she addressed the hostility she has faced in an interview on the “Onward With Rosie O’Donnell” podcast released amid the backlash. She’s “an easy target,” she said, “because I’m still new to this.”

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