The first woman to lead Bud Light is being blamed for the beermaker’s recent decision to partner up with a prominent trans activist – after she expressed a desire make the brand a more ‘inclusive’ and ditch its ‘fratty’ reputation.
The brand’s newly tapped vice president of marketing, Alissa Gordon Heinerscheid, shared that vision late last month, and has since been met with pushback from right-wing and conservative customers.
Seen over the past two weeks, the backlash was amplified on April 3 when it was announced 26-year-old transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney would be now be working with Bud Light’s marketing division moving forward.
The decision saw the 39-year-old emerge as a figurative lightning rod for beer-drinkers across the globe, unhappy with the company’s current path and apparent deviation from long-held norms.
Heinerscheid is a graduate of Wharton business school, and is the first woman to lead Bud Light in its 41-year history. It’s since been revealed that since taking the gig in July, the strategist has rolled out multiple ads as part of a self-professed push to empower women and improve business – one of which featured actor Miles Teller.
Alissa Heinerscheid, the brand’s newly tapped vice president of marketing, shared her new vision for Bud Light late last month, and has since been met with pushback from customers
Seen over the past two weeks, the backlash was amplified on April 3 when it was announced 26-year-old transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney (seen here running errands in LA) would be now be working with Bud Light’s marketing division moving forward. Pictured: Trans TikTok star Dylan Mulvaney runs errands in Los Angeles, California on Sunday April 9
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
Back in February, Heinerscheid pledged to Forbes that she would fight for increased representation for women as Bud Light’s first female boss, and promised to take the company into an entirely new direction.
‘As the first woman to lead the biggest beer brand in the world, it’s an amazing opportunity to really evolve and elevate Bud Light, this brand I love,’ Heinerscheid said, shortly before the airing of her first Bud Light Super Bowl ad featuring Miles Teller and his wife Keleigh.
Her and her company’s decision to work with Mulvaney – who only began to post videos in 2021 after starting to transition from male to female – angered many loyal customers.
‘This campaign is meant to feel different, to be lighter and brighter, with a confidence and magnetism, and it’s really critical to depict real people and real places,’ she said.
‘What I need to do to help this brand to evolve.. this is my passion point.’
Citing her status as a mother, Heinerscheid added that one of her priorities for this new era of marketing was to make sure that women were better represented.
‘Female representation is a personal passion point of mine,’ she said.
This desire was felt in another February commercial titled ‘The Bud Light Carry, which saw a female protagonist, after buying her friends a round of beer, successfully bring the glasses to her friends without spilling a drop.
‘We had this awesome female lead, she’s cool as hell, bobbing and weaving through the bar,’ Heinerscheid said of the TV spot.
Similar values were also exhibited in the Super Bowl commercial, in which Keleigh, while on hold on the phone, has husband Teller bring her a Bud Light.
However, the action is actually being directed by a female choreographer – who is pulling both of the stars’ strings from behind the scenes,
‘We see this Super Bowl ad as ushering a new era for Bud Light,’ Heinerscheid said at the time.
Her new tagline for this so-called ‘new era’ is ‘Easy to Drink, Easy to Enjoy.’
She added: ‘We’d been pretty inconsistent in our messaging over the years, and we need to establish who we are and consistently message this in years to come.’
But as backlash against this new marketing stratagem persists, Bud Light has kept remarkably mum on the unfolding crisis, with the beer giant’s last tweet coming on April 1, before the Mulvaney partnership was announced.
It read: ‘Beers on us? Must be game time. For a chance to win, cheer on your team with #EasyToEnjoySweepstakes in the replies.’
This desire was felt in a February commercial titled ‘The Bud Light Carry,” which saw a female protagonist, after buying her friends a round of beer, successfully bring the glasses to her friends without spilling a drop
Similar values were also exhibited in Heinerscheid’s first Super Bowl commercial, featuring Miles Teller and wife Keleigh, whose dance moves were directed by a female choreographer
‘We see this Super Bowl ad as ushering a new era for Bud Light,’ Heinerscheid told Forbes in February of the commercial
While they have gone a few days without tweeting in the past, the official Twitter account is typically active, as are their other regular social channels.
The feed had tweeted 10 times in the prior seven days and is usually active during large sporting events such as the Master’s golf tournament at the weekend.
Given that the partnership with Mulvaney was unveiled during March Madness, the annual NCAA basketball tournament, it’s notable that the brewer did not at all tweet during the University of Connecticut’s victory over San Diego State in the championship game on April 3.
Prior to her current role, Heinerscheid worked as an associate brand manager for Listerine, and afterwards headed Bud Light’s parent Anheuser-Busch’s inhouse agency for a total of seven months.
During that time, the marketing specialist claims to have created the firm’s current ‘internal influencer agency’, an approach that Bud Light now appears to be favoring with its decision to market through figures like Mulvaney.
Mulvaney – a transgender woman who during the pandemic became known on TikTok for her ‘days of girlhood’ series – has more than 10.8million followers on the platform.
Earlier this month, Bud Light – an iconic brand that has declined since merging with Belgium-based AmBev in 2016 – ignited fury by celebrating Mulvaney, sending the influencer custom-made cans featuring her face.
The gift served as the start of the since-confirmed partnership between the parties, further confirmed by an ensuing post from Mulvaney, in which she appeared to her followers naked in a bathtub drinking a Bud Light beer.
The 26-yea-old transgender activist announced the partnership in a now viral post included the hashtag ‘#budlightpartner’, and a caption that touted the cans as her ‘most prized possession’
The partnership is evidently part of Heinerscheid’s previously mentioned plans for the company, to make it more inclusive and less male-centered
Evidently part of Heinerscheid’s previously mentioned plans for the company, the now viral post included the hashtag ‘#budlightpartner’, and a caption that touted the cans as her ‘most prized possession’.
The partnered post, as well as a slew of others from the rapidly rising activist, quickly inspired backlash, with many questioning the company’s new approach under Heinerscheid, who assumed the VP role in July.
In the turmoil that ensued, Bud Light’s parent company and Heinerscheid’s former employer, Anheuser-Busch, issued a statement saying it supported the brand’s decision to work with Mulvaney, whose videos follow her journey as a trans person.
The assertion, however, failed to quell the pronounced response seen after Mulvaney’s partnered posts – which included a video posted by Kid Rock where he shot up cases of the beer in protest of the current direction of the company.
But a spokesperson for Anheuser-Busch, which unlike Bud Light is still based in in its native Missouri, said that its popular brand would continue to collaborate with a wide range of influencers to reach new customers, including Mulvaney.
‘Anheuser-Busch works with hundreds of influencers across our brands as one of many ways to authentically connect with audiences across various demographics,’ the rep said in a statement shared with several outlets last week.
It added: ‘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.’
Onlookers are now criticizing the maneuver as a shameless publicity grab, amid the recent trend of companies going ‘woke’ to better their bottom lines.
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.
To do so, the business strategist said had a ‘super clear’ mandate she was seeking to instill to ‘to evolve and elevate this incredibly iconic brand – which she also criticized for having a marketing strategy that is dated and male-focused.
‘We had this hangover, I mean Bud Light had been kind of a brand of fratty, kind of out of touch humor, and it was really important that we had another approach,’ the Wharton graduate said of the state of the company when she was took the reigns.
‘I had a really clear job to do when I took over,’ she continued. ‘It was “This brand is in decline, it’s been in a decline for a really long time.’
‘It’s like we need to evolve and elevate this incredibly iconic brand. What does evolve and elevate mean? It means inclusivity… it means having a campaign that’s truly inclusive and feels lighter and brighter and different. And appeals to women and to men.’
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
She went on to question the current state of the company, likening its longheld approach to male-driven marketing a ‘hangover’.
‘Representation, isn’t it the heart of evolution?’ she told host Kristin Twiford on Make Yourself at Home. ‘We had this hangover.
‘Bud Light had been kind of a brand of fratty out-of-touch humor, and it was really important that we had another approach.’
She further forecasted of the future for the company: ‘If we do not attract young drinkers to come and drink this brand there will be no future for.’
Days later, the Mulvaney partnership was announced – adding a rapidly rising influencer who has earned more than a million dollars from brands like Kate Spade, Crest and InstaCart to Bud Light’s stable.
The maneuver, while not confirmed to be the handiwork of Heinerscheid explicitly, coincide with past work seen in her 10-year marketing career – which began in 2013 as a summer intern at General Mills’ Cheerios.
During her brief stint as VP of Anheuser-Busch’s new inhouse creative agency draftLine, several inclusive campaigns – including a black-center campaign tabbed Brewing Change’ – have surfaced.
The beermaker’s footprint on platforms like TikTok and Instagram has also increased in recent month, largely though partnered posts made by influencers like Mulvaney.
In an interview with New York PR publication Provoke Media last year, Heinerscheid hailed companies like Nike for inclusive, ‘culturally relevant campaigns’ featuring black athletes, while also praising former employer General Mills for its more ‘wholesome and genuine’ approach to ads.
In an interview last year, Heinerscheid – who only has ten years’ experience in marketing – hailed companies like Nike for inclusive, ‘culturally relevant campaigns’ featuring black athletes
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 at the firm before pursuing a master’s in marketing later that year
Citing her status as a mother, Heinerscheid – who has thee young kids – recently said one of her priorities for her new era of marketing was to make sure that women were better represented
‘I have always been impressed with how culturally relevant and impactful the marketing is for Nike,’ she told the outlet in November after being named on of its 25 American Innovators of the year.
‘Also, as a parent,’ she added, ‘there is just something so wholesome and genuine about what General Mills does.’
That said, despite being a proponent of progressive ideals, the New Yorker is a registered Republican, according to public records updated in 2016, and as previously mentioned, has a family with three young children.
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 at the firm after graduating Harvard, where she studied English.
Their wedding was announced by the New York Times in May 2011.
She then enrolled in a marketing Master’s program at $60,000-per-year Wharton, finishing in 2013. She has held roles at Cheerio’s, Listerine, and Anheuser-Busch in the time since.
Mulvaney’s April 2 Instagram post currently has over 11,000 comments, many of them unhappy with the promotion.
A spokesman for the firm which makes Bud Light said: ‘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 Dylan Mulvaney. This commemorative can was a gift to celebrate a personal milestone and is not for sale to the general public.’
The partnership with Mulvaney was unveiled during March Madness – though it’s notable that the brewer did not at all post during the final on April 3. The influencer has earned more than a million dollars from brands like Kate Spade, Crest and InstaCart in less than two years
The transgender influencer is not Bud’s first foray into woke. In 2019 it unveiled these rainbow bottles for the 30th Annual GLAAD Media Awards in New York