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Bud Light executives put on leave after Dylan Mulvaney uproar, report says

Two Anheuser-Busch InBev executives who supervised Bud Light's marketing collaboration with transgender TikTok star Dylan Mulvaney have been put on leave, the company told the Wall Street Journal on Sunday. 

Alissa Heinerscheid, vice president of marketing for Bud Light, and her boss, Daniel Blake, Budweiser's group vice president for marketing, faced criticism and even death threats earlier this month after sending the social media influencer commemorative Bud Light cans with her image to promote a sweepstakes contest for the company

Now, both executives have taken leaves of absence, the company said in an email to the Journal. 

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

"Wasn't voluntary"

The decision to go on leave "wasn't voluntary" on the executives' parts, the Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter. 

Todd Allen, the former global vice president of Budweiser, will take on the role of vice president of marketing at Bud Light in place of Heinerscheid, Ad Age reported.

On April 1, Mulvaney posted a sponsored Instagram video of herself drinking a Bud Light for a marketing campaign celebrating the end of March Madness. In the video, Mulvaney shares a photo of a Bud Light can with her face on it celebrating her "365 days of girlhood" series on TikTok documenting her gender transition. In the post, she calls the commemorative can "possibly the best gift ever." 

The post sparked outrage among some Bud Light fans, igniting calls to boycott the brand. Rapper-singer Kid Rock joined the fray with an Instagram video of himself wearing a MAGA hat and shooting up cases of Bud Light with an automatic rifle. 

Following the uproar, Anheuser-Busch InBev CEO Brendan Whitworth on April 14 released a statement in which he expressed regret over the division caused by the company's collaboration with Mulvaney, though he did not refer to the promotion directly. 

"We never intended to be part of a discussion that divides people," the CEO wrote. "We are in the business of bringing people together over a beer."

Anheuser-Busch InBev did not reply to a request for comment from CBS MoneyWatch. 

Cosmetics company Maybelline, which partnered with Mulvaney on a short video last month, is facing its own backlash, with consevative commentators calling for a boycott of the company.

Mulvaney has become a target of conservatives' ire, some of whom are lashing out at the influencer's brand parnerships to express anger over transgender rights. 

From "fratty" to inclusive

Bud Light's partnership with Mulvaney formed part of a larger initiative by the beer brand to "evolve" its marketing strategy. According to comments Heinerscheid made on the "Make Yourself At Home" podcast earlier this month, Bud Light has traditionally targeted "fratty" men in its marketing campaigns and wanted to become more "inclusive." 

"I had this super clear mandate. It's like we need to evolve and elevate this incredibly iconic brand," Heinerscheid said on the podcast. "It means having a campaign that's truly inclusive and feels lighter and brighter and different, and [that] appeals to women and to men." 

Since the controversy erupted over the link to Mulvaney, Bud Light's sister brands have pivoted away from that inclusive tone. On April 14, Budweiser, another AB InBev-owned brand, tweeted a sleek new ad featuring patriotic overtones and its signature Clydesdale horse mascot. 

Support for transgender representation

Transgender activists hope that other brands will continue partnering with transgender people despite the backlash Bud Light faced from "a small number of loud, fringe anti-LGBTQ activists," GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis told CBS MoneyWatch.

"When brands authentically portray LGBTQ people, it reflects the world around us and improves the brand's reputation among all consumers, especially younger consumers."

AB InBev's stock took a brief hit from the backlash, but has since recovered, trading at close to $66 a share on Monday. The brewery, which also owns beer brands such as Corona and Stella Artois, is up nearly 4% in the past month and has risen roughly 11% from last year. 

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