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Go Woke, Go Broke: Bud Light Fires VP After Trans Campaign Backfire

Bud Light’s parent company, Anheuser Busch InBev, placed two marketing executives overseeing its recent campaign with a transgender activist on leave. Alissa Heinerscheid, the brewery’s VP of marketing, and her boss, Daniel Blake, who oversees all Anheuser-Busch brands, took leaves of absence. “Given the circumstances, Alissa has decided to take a leave of absence which we support,” an Anheuser-Busch spokeswoman said in an email. “Daniel has also decided to take a leave of absence.” According to insiders, their decisions were not voluntary. After the campaign’s public release, in which transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney posted a personalized Bud Light can with her face on it, “Boycott Bud Light” started trending on social media. Musician Kid Rock even posted a Twitter video where he shot cases of Bud Light with a rifle. Although a replacement has been named for Heinerscheid, Blake’s position remains open. 

WALL STREET JOURNAL: Bud Light Brewer Puts Two Executives on Leave After Uproar Over Transgender Influencer

By Ginger Adams Otis, Lauren Weber & Jennifer Maloney; April 23, 2023

Anheuser-Busch InBev SA BUD 0.34%increase; green up pointing triangle said it had placed on leave two executives who oversaw a Bud Light collaboration with a transgender activist.

Alissa Heinerscheid, Bud Light’s vice president of marketing, had come under fire from some customers and media outlets over the company’s decision to send a personalized Bud Light can to transgender activist and influencer Dylan Mulvaney as part of a promotion for the beer brand’s March Madness contest.

Ms. Heinerscheid and her boss Daniel Blake, who oversees marketing for Anheuser-Busch’s mainstream brands, took leaves of absence, the company said on Sunday.

“Given the circumstances, Alissa has decided to take a leave of absence which we support,” an Anheuser-Busch spokeswoman said in an email. “Daniel has also decided to take a leave of absence.”

The decision to take a leave wasn’t voluntary, according to people familiar with the matter. AB InBev named another executive to replace Ms. Heinerscheid.

Ms. Mulvaney had posted a video of herself drinking Bud Light and calling the personalized can—which had her face on it—“possibly the best gift ever” in celebration of the first anniversary of her gender transition. The deal prompted a movement on social media earlier this month to boycott Bud Light, and musician Kid Rock posted a video on Twitter in which he shot cases of Bud Light with a rifle. 

Amid the backlash, the company said it supported the partnership with Ms. Mulvaney, saying it works with hundreds of influencers to help its brands connect with different demographics.  

Mr. Blake, who oversees marketing for Budweiser and Bud Light, has worked at Anheuser-Busch for nearly nine years. The company didn’t announce a replacement for Mr. Blake.

The brewer said Friday that Todd Allen, most recently global vice president of Budweiser, would take over Ms. Heinerscheid’s role. 

Ms. Heinerscheid, age 39, was promoted to the lead marketing role at Bud Light last June, becoming the first woman in that job in the brand’s four-decade history. She was named in September to the magazine Ad Age’s 40 Under 40 list, and oversaw Bud Light’s Super Bowl ad this year.

The spot, a departure from previous brand mascots such as party dog Spuds MacKenzie and the Bud Knight, featured a female protagonist who is cheered up by a man who brings her a Bud Light and impishly dances around her. The couple in the ad are played by actor Miles Teller and his real-life wife, model and actor Keleigh Sperry Teller.

Ms. Heinerscheid told a podcast earlier this year, “I had a really clear job to do when I took over Bud Light. It was, this brand is in decline, it’s been in decline for a really long time, and if we do not attract young drinkers to come and drink this brand, there will be no future for Bud Light.”

She added that this mandate, to her, meant “shifting the tone, it means having a campaign that’s truly inclusive and feels lighter and brighter and different and appeals to women and to men.”

The trade publication Beer Business Daily earlier reported on Ms. Heinerscheid’s move. 

Anheuser-Busch said that it will also adjust some of its marketing department functions to ensure senior staff are fully connected to decisions about brand activities. 

“These steps will help us maintain focus 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 said. 

Photo: Anheuser-Busch

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