Bud Light’s parent company Anheuser-Busch has distanced themselves from the campaign with controversial trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney – with bosses saying it was ‘one single can.’
In a letter to major retailers, the brewing giant addressed the backlash in detail for the first time after they were hit with a major dip in Bud Light sales following the paid partnership.
The disastrous campaign saw profits for the American flagship beer plummet 26 percent, and Anheuser-Busch put two of their most senior members of the marketing team behind the campaign on leave.
Bud Light’s VP of marketing, Alissa Heinerscheid, took a leave of absence while the VP for Mainstream Brand, Daniel Blake, stepped down some days after.
Bosses of Anheuser-Busch have now backtracked on giving Mulvaney, 26, a beer can with her face on – saying it was ‘not a formal campaign or advertisement’.
In a letter to major retailers, the brewing giant addressed the backlash in detail for the first time after they were hit with a major dip in Bud Light sales following the paid partnership
Anheuser-Busch put two of their most senior members of the marketing team behind the campaign on leave. Pictured: Alissa Heinerscheid
Despite their attempts to disavow the connection, the video Mulvaney posted of herself drinking Bud Light at the start of April 2023 used the hashtag #budlightpartner.
It implies that she was paid for the partnership, despite the brewing giants now claiming that the beer can and social media posts were not meant to be ‘for production or sale to the general public.
The letter, which was sent to retailers, bars and restaurants by Grey Eagle – who distributes Anheuser-Busch products around St Louis.
It said: ‘Anheuser-Busch did not intend to create controversy or make a political statement.
‘In reality, the Bud Light can posted by a social media influencer that sparked all the conversation was provided by an outside agency without Anheuser-Busch management awareness or approval.
‘Since that time, the lack of oversight and control over marketing decisions has been addressed and a new VP of Bud Light marketing has been announced.’
The specifics of how the can fiasco was approved remain under wraps. The latest letter’s claims the Mulvaney can was the brainchild of an outside agency come despite two top Anheuser-Busch marketing VPs involved in the fracas stepping down from their roles.
Todd Allen, most recently the global vice president of Budweiser, has been announced as the new vice president of marketing for Bud Light – after Heinerscheid and Blake took a leave of absence.
Despite their attempts to disavow the connection, the video Mulvaney posted of herself drinking Bud Light at the start of April 2023 used the hashtag #budlightpartner
It implies that she was paid for the partnership, despite the brewing giants now claiming that the beer can and social media posts were not meant to be ‘for production or sale to the general public
The defiant rebuttal against the ‘unofficial’ campaign comes as Anheuser-Bush reported first-quarter earnings of $1.65billion, which topped Wall Street expectations.
The brewer posted revenue of $14.21 billion in the period, which also beat forecasts, with the shares rising 6 percent since the beginning of the year and 12 per cent in 12 months.
Mulvany posted the content to coincide with the NCAA March Madness tournament, before joking she didn’t know what sport she was promoting.
After the post on April 1, Anheuser-Busch lost more than $6billion in market capitalization in just six days.
The beer giants stock roughly traded at just over five percent decrease in the total share value and the company’s market capitalization stood at $113.33billion.
Mulvaney posted several videos and images on Instagram for the paid partnership, but it is unclear exactly how much she was paid.
A former chief creative officer at Anheuser-Busch branded the decision to use Mulvaney as a ‘calamitous mistake’.
Mulvany posted the content to coincide with the NCAA March Madness tournament, before joking she didn’t know what sport she was promoting
Daniel Blake, who is the vice president for Anheuser-Busch’s mainstream brands has stepped back from his job, after controversy about Bud Light’s partnership with Dylan Mulvaney
Robert Lachky told STL Today: ‘The minute you step into the political or religious spectrum, when you know your target audience is going to have a real issue with this, you know you’ve alienated at least half of your target audience.
‘In the end, people don’t like getting preached to, especially when it comes to drinking beer.’
He claimed that the marketing changed after Bud Light was bought by Belgian-Based InBev in 2009, when non-US teams were brought in.
Lachky added: ‘None of these marketing folks has ever been to a NASCAR race, none has been to a football game or a rodeo. That’s insanity. That’s marketing incompetence.’
It comes after DailyMail.com obtained documents which showed the brewing giant hired two formed GOP aides on the same day it went public with Mulvaney’s video.
Both Sean McLean and Emily Lynch were named as lobbyists for Bud Light’s parent company on April 1.
It states the firm, owned by Belgium-based giant InBev, hired lobbyists Origin Advocacy for representation on ‘general policy regarding the alcohol-beverage industry.’
McLean (right) previously worked for Senator Ted Cruz, and was the White House liaison for the Commerce Department under President Trump. Lynch (left) worked as committee staff for Senator Susan Collins before later working as a legislative assistant for Representative Virginia Foxx and former Senator Kelly Ayotte
It states that the company, owned by Belgium-based brewing conglomerate InBev, hired lobbying firm Origin Advocacy for representation on ‘general policy regarding the alcohol-beverage industry’
The account is being handled by Origin founder McLean, and employee Lynch, who are both veteran staffers to GOP politicians.
McLean previously worked for Senator Ted Cruz and was the White House liaison for the Commerce Department under President Donald Trump.
He also once worked as the legislative director for Senator Marsha Blackburn when she served in the US House of Representatives.
Lynch worked as committee staff for Senator Susan Collins before later working as a legislative assistant for Representative Virginia Foxx and former Senator Kelly Ayotte.
According to the New York Post, the company has promised ‘there will be an improved screening process before any marketing hits the public.’
It comes after Coors Light and Miller Lite both saw bumps to sales while the Anheuser-Busch-owned brewer saw them plunge.
Mulvaney (left) was sent a personalized beer can to mark 365 days since she transitioned. She documented her journey on TikTok and gained millions of online followers
CEO of Anheuser-Busch Brendan Whitworth issued this public statement two weeks into the controversy
In the week after the campaign launched, April 1, Bud Light dollar sales dipped 6 percent, as Coors Light rose 3.5 percent and Miller Lite 3.1 per cent.
As the backlash ramped up against Anheuser-Busch, with Kid Rock opening fire on several cases of the beer, their sales dropped 17 percent in the week of April 18.
By comparison, Coors Light saw sales rise by 10.6 percent, while Miller Lite scooped up even more profit with sales rising 11.5 percent.
Last week sales of Bud Light had risen slightly, with the company seeing just a 6.7 percent dip in sales, with both their rivals seeing a huge increase of 18 percent.
Bud Light is the largest beer brand in the US, but their decision to work with Mulvaney has seriously affected the company.
During the NCAA basketball tournament from March 18 to April 1, it was the clear leader of all Light beers, up 15 percent, according to Brewbound.
But following the Mulvaney campaign it trailed other beers by at least six percent in bars and restaurants.
Since taking the gig in July, Heinerscheid has already rolled out several adverts as part of a push to empower women – one of which features a dancing Miles Teller and his wife
Between April 2 and April 15, Beer Board says that their overall volume of sales at bars and restaurants dropped by 34.7 percent.
Bud Light has now declined into the fourth spot of the most popular draft beer during the second week of the controversy – losing out to Coors Light.
VP of marketing Alissa Heinerscheid had been hired to overhaul Bud Light’s marketing in June 2022 with the idea of freshening up its image.
She spoke out before the controversial campaign to say that the company had a ‘fratty’ image which needed to be changed.
Daniel Blake stepped down shortly after Heinerscheid, with both saying they were taking a ‘leave of absence’.
The firm said both bosses ‘decided’ to temporarily step down, but their decisions were reportedly not voluntary.
‘Given the circumstances, Alissa has decided to take a leave of absence which we support. Daniel has also decided to take a leave of absence,’ the company said.
Blake is a nine-year veteran of Anheuser-Busch and oversaw marketing for both Bud Light and Budweiser.
The company has been hit with a barrage of complaints, with many customers filming themselves pouring the liquid away
She married her husband Henry Charles Heinerscheid, a consultant in Boston with Tapestry Networks, in 2011, after working with him as a senior associate for five years. She left to pursue a master’s in marketing later that year
A replacement wasn’t immediately announced. Heinerscheid’s job was taken over by Todd Allen, who recently served as global vice president of Budweiser.
Blake, who is based in New York, was promoted to group vice president of Anheuser-Busch’s mainstream brands in May 2022, according to his LinkedIn page. Before that, he was group VP of marketing for Budweiser and value brands.
On March 30, Heinerschied gave an interview to a business podcast in which she said she wanted to make Bud Light less ‘fratty’ and more ‘inclusive’.
Two days later, on April 1, Mulvaney – who began transitioning to a woman in 2021 – was unveiled as a brand partner.
Several famous faces have slammed the brand for their decision, after pro-Trump Kid Rock shot the cans and commented: ‘F*** Bud Light, and f*** Anheuser-Busch. Have a terrific day.’
John Rich also publicly denounced the brand, saying he would be removing it from his bar in Nashville.
Mulvaney has hit back at her critics over the Bud Light deal, telling Rosie O’Donnell on her podcast: ‘The reason that I think I am so…I’m an easy target is because I’m so new to this.
‘I think going after a trans woman that’s been doing this for like 20 years is a lot more difficult. I think maybe they think that there’s some sort of chance with me … But what is their goal?
Anheuser-Busch is led by US CEO Brendan Whitworth, a former Marine lieutenant, CIA officer, and Harvard Business School graduate, who joined A-B in 2014
During a podcast appearance last month, days before the Mulvaney partnership was announced, Heinerscheid said Bud Light was on the wane when she took the helm last summer, but planned to right the ship in the coming months
‘These people, they don’t understand me, and anything that I do or say then somehow gets taken out of context and is used against me, and it’s so sad because everything I try to put out is positive.
‘It’s trying to connect with others that maybe don’t understand me. It’s to make people laugh or to make a kid feel seen.’
In the turmoil that ensued after the announcement of the collaboration, Anheuser-Busch issued a statement saying it supported the brand’s decision to work with Mulvaney.
They added: ‘Anheuser-Busch works with hundreds of influencers across our brands as one of many ways to authentically connect with audiences across various demographics.
‘From time to time, we produce unique commemorative cans for fans and for brand influencers, like Mulvaney. This commemorative can was a gift to celebrate a personal milestone and is not for sale to the general public.’
Locals in Marietta, Georgia, where Travis Tritt is from, have been switching from their usual drink of Bud Light to Coors Light, according to bartenders – who say the impact was ‘immediate’
Fellow country singer John Rich became the latest celebrity to hit out at the brand, asking which beer he should use to replace Bud Light at his Nashville bar, Redneck Riviera
Several former customers filmed themselves pouring the beer away – down the sink and toilet – while others emptied their fridge of the product into bins
Bud Light then released a patriotic new advertisement for Budweiser featuring its iconic Clydesdale horses, in an apparent attempt to reset following the controversy.
The one-minute spot features shots of the iconic Clydesdales galloping across the country, in open fields, and past landmarks including the Lincoln Memorial and the New York City skyline.
However, online users slammed the ad as a pathetic attempt to right the ship that was permanently sent in the wrong direction with the Mulvaney partnership.
On April 14, CEO Brendan Whitworth delivered an apology.
‘We never intended to be part of a discussion that divides people. We are in the business of bringing people together over a beer,’ he said in a statement.
He added: ‘My time serving this country taught me the importance of accountability and the values upon which America was founded: freedom, hard work and respect from one another.’
‘I care deeply about this country, this company, our brands and our partners,’ he added.
‘I spend much of my time traveling across America, listening to and learning from our customers, distributors and others. Moving forward I will continue to work tirelessly to bring great beers to consumers across our nation.’