Anheuser-Busch, the maker of Bud Light, said Tuesday that two of its executives are on leave after the beer was featured in a social media ad by a transgender influencer.
Bud Light’s sales have slumped amid calls for a boycott because of the ad and criticism of the company’s response to the backlash, including the targeting and harassment of one of its vacationing executives.
Alyssa Heinerscheid, Bud Light’s vice president of marketing, and Daniel Blake, who oversees marketing for Anheuser-Busch’s core brands, are on leave, the company said in a statement.
“We’ve made some changes to align the structure of our marketing function to reduce layers so that our senior marketers are more closely connected to every aspect of our brands’ operations,” Anheuser-Busch said in a statement. “These steps will help us focus on what we do best: brewing great beer for all consumers, while always having a positive impact on our communities and our country.”
The company’s turmoil began on April 1, when a transgender influencer, Dylan Mulvaney, Posted a video Bud Light on his Instagram account to promote the March Madness contest to his 1.8 million followers. In her less than minute post, she said the company sent her a tall can of Bud Light with her face on it. Kane’s image was edited into the video.
Within days, conservative celebrities and politicians were calling for a boycott of the brand. These calls were followed by reverse boycott or boycott calls to encourage people to buy Bud Light to show support for the marketing.
Brendan Whitworth, CEO of Anheuser-Busch InBev, In a statement indirectly addressed the controversy On April 14.
“We don’t want to be part of a debate that divides people,” he said. “We’re in the business of bringing people together over a beer.”
This did not undercut Bud Light’s criticisms. grew up It included complaints about its slow response to the backlash and targeted harassment of Ms Heinerscheid.
Critics of the ad found a podcast interview from March with Ms. Mulvaney saying some of Bud Light’s previous ads contained some “confused, off-the-wall humor” and that the company needed more. including its population growth. As podcast quotes circulated, The Daily Caller, The New York Post and The Daily Mail published photos of Ms. Heinerscheid at a party at the college in 2006.
Mrs. Heinerscheidt and Mr. Blake could not immediately be reached for comment.
After the report about Ms. Heinerscheid on Friday, news of the executive leave began to circulate. Beer Business DailyOn Sunday his superior Mr. A trade publication about plaque The Wall Street Journal.
The controversy has had a negative effect on sales of Bud Light, which fell 17 percent in the week ending April 15, according to Beer Business Daily.
In the United States, the beer industry is dominated by two large brewers, which control 65 percent of beer sales: Molson Coors Beverage Company, which owns well-known brands including Coors and Miller, and Anheuser-Busch InBev, which owns Corona and Michelob.
20 years ago, beer accounted for half of all alcohol sales in the country. Last year, that market share was about 42 percent, as sales of gin, vodka and other spirits have grown sharply in recent years.
Anheuser-Busch, which introduced non-alcoholic and canned cocktail drinks, reported that sales of its beer in North America fell 4 percent last year.
Bump Williams, who runs a liquor consulting firm, said he was concerned the Bud Light controversy could result in a negative “halo effect” around Anheuser-Busch’s other brands, many of which have seen small sales declines.
Harry Schumacher, Beer Business Daily’s publisher said that sales of Bud Light have fallen almost dollar-for-dollar to rivals Miller Light and Coors Light.
Mr. Bud Light called the situation “terrible” during his short tenure. But that may have less impact on the company’s long-term business, Schumacher said, because the brand is already in decline. “It just exacerbates the curve of decline that was already underway,” he said.
He said the popularity of different beer brands varies by generation, and Bud Light is experiencing a decline in that cycle.
“This has been going on since prohibition was lifted,” he said. “Brands cycle every 20 to 30 years.”
He said the company may have a “silver lining” as the controversy has attracted media attention.
“They apparently took a stand even though they didn’t back it up very well,” Mr. Schumacher said. “They threw it out there and hid it, and I think it’s unfair to Dylan and a little bit unfair to the trans community.”
Bud Light’s criticism came as Republican state lawmakers proposed legislation that would regulate the lives of young transgender people, restrict drag shows to include transgender people more broadly and require schools to send transgender students to their parents.
Ms Mulvaney has been documenting her transformation on TikTok, which has more than 10.8 million followers. In March, she celebrated one year of her “Women’s Days” series.
Anheuser-Busch said earlier this month that it “serves as one of many ways to truly connect with audiences across diverse demographics with hundreds of influencers across our brands,” and gave Ms. Mulvaney “a personalized can to celebrate a personal milestone.”
Ms. Mulvaney did not respond to the Bud Light uproar, but she addressed the hostility she faced in an interview on the “Onward with Rosie O’Donnell” podcast. Released amid backlash. She was “an easy target,” she said, “because I was still new to this.”
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