Bud Light tries for a comeback with a focus on sports and concerts

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Anheuser-Busch InBev said it will concentrate its marketing on sporting and music events as it tries to reverse falling sales of its flagship beer Bud Light in the face of conservative backlash in the U.S.

The brewing giant revealed part of its plan to revitalize the brand Tuesday after it reported third-quarter earnings that beat expectations. The company’s revenue fell nearly 14% from July to September in the U.S., its largest market, as Bud Light sales sank.

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Bud Light sales started falling in April after a conservative boycott of the brewer’s partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney. At the height of the backlash, Modelo Especial dethroned Bud Light as the best-selling beer in the U.S.

Bud Light sales are still lagging, as the brand dropped 29% in the four weeks ending Oct. 21 compared to same period a year ago, according to Nielsen data compiled by research firm Bump Williams Consulting. Sales have fallen nearly 19% this year, according to the firm. CNBC reached out to the company Anheuser-Busch for comment.

Anheuser-Busch is now trying to turn around the brand’s fortunes by marketing Bud Light through platforms it considers uncontroversial.

During a conference call with investors Tuesday, CEO Michel Doukeris said the company remains confident in Bud Light and “significantly increased” investment in it over the summer. Moving forward, the company plans to promote Bud Light at events like football games and concerts, he said.

The beer is focusing on outlets such as the NFL, college football, the country music festival Stagecoach and Folds of Honor, a nonprofit organization which provides scholarships to military families.

Earlier this month, Bud Light again became the official beer sponsor for the Ultimate Fighting Championship with a six-year marketing partnership. The sponsorship deal is “well into the nine figures,” and the largest in the mixed martial arts promotion’s history, CNBC previously reported.

Moreover, Doukeris said the company has changed its marketing structure, and that he intends to steer the brand away from contentious debates.

“While beer will always be at the table when important topics are debated, the beer itself should not be the focus of the debate,” he said.

Doukeris also seemed to further distance the company from Mulvaney, who has criticized the company for failing to defend her amid the boycott. Additional backlash about how the company responded to the boycott contributed to lower sales earlier this year.

“This was the result of one campaign,” he said of the Mulvaney partnership, which featured her face on a Bud Light can. “It was not made for production or sales to general public. It was one post, not a formal campaign or advertisement.”

He added that the company has been trying to support the delivery drivers, sales representatives, wholesalers, and servers whom the “situation has impacted.”

Despite weak sales in the U.S., Anheuser-Busch beat Wall Street’s expectations for the third quarter. Revenue rose 5% from the prior-year period to $15.57 billion, due to an industry-wide trend of higher pricing.

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