Bud Light puts execs on leave after backlash to collaboration with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney

Anheuser-Busch has placed two executives who managed Bud Light's sponsorship of two Instagram posts from a transgender woman on leave, according to the Wall Street Journal and other media reports.

Ad Age was the first to report that Alissa Heinerscheid, Bud Light's vice president of marketing, was placed on leave. Todd Allen, most recently Budweiser's vice president of global marketing, is set to replace her. Daniel Blake, Anheuser-Busch's vice president who oversees market for mainstream brands, was also put on leave, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Anheuser-Busch did not immediately respond to CNN's request for comment.

The executive shakeup comes after Bud Light saw both support from trans activists and backlash from conservative media for its collaboration with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney, who has 1.8 million followers on Instagram and 10.8 million on TikTok. The beer maker sponsored two Instagram posts by Mulvaney and sent her a can of beer with her face on it.

"Anheuser-Busch works with hundreds of influencers across our brands as one of many ways to authentically connect with audiences across various demographics," the brewery giant told CNN last week. "From time to time we produce unique commemorative cans for fans and for brand influencers, like Dylan Mulvaney. This commemorative can was a gift to celebrate a personal milestone and is not for sale to the general public."

A few days after the post was published, musician Kid Rock posted an Instagram video of himself shooting cases of Bud Light, and conservatives called for a boycott of the company.

The online backlash ramped up to physical danger when Anheuser-Busch facilities received threats. The Los Angeles police department told CNN last week that it responded to a bomb threat and conducted a sweep of an Anheuser-Busch brewery in the Van Nuys neighborhood.

Heinerscheid said in a recent Make Yourself at Home podcast interview that Bud Light needs to attract young drinkers to ensure the company's future, with one avenue being to promote inclusivity. The company has a history of appealing to LGBTQ+ drinkers, releasing beer in rainbow bottles for Pride Month and partnering with LGBTQ+ support organizations.

The posts that sparked conservative outrage.
The posts that sparked conservative outrage. Photo credit: Dylan Mulvaney/Instagram

Heinerscheid was appointed to the marketing vice president position in June 2022, becoming the first woman in the brand's 40 year history to occupy that role.

The backlash against Bud Light and Mulvaney comes against a backdrop of legislation targeting transgender people and the growth of anti-trans rhetoric among conservative politicians.

The House last Thursday passed a GOP-led bill banning transgender athletes from women's and girls' sports at federally funded schools and educational institutions. The bill is not expected to be taken up by the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Pushes for other anti-trans measures have ramped up in Republican-led states, such as bans on gender-affirming health care for transgender youth in Idaho and Indiana.

More broadly, a record 417 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced in state legislatures this year, according to American Civil Liberties Union data as of April 3. That's more than twice the number of such bills introduced in 2022.

It remains unclear whether Anheuser-Busch will see blows to its bottom line from the controversy, with experts expecting no sizable damage — but the company could have to answer questions about the matter when it reports first-quarter earnings on May 4.