Alcohol advertising is the promotion of alcoholic beverages by alcohol producers through a variety of media. Along with tobacco advertising, it is one of the most highly-regulated forms of marketing. Some or all forms of alcohol advertising is banned in some countries.
Scientific research, health agencies and universities have, over decades, been able to demonstrate a correlation between alcohol beverage advertising and alcohol consumption; however, it has not been proven that alcohol advertising causes higher consumption rather than merely reflecting greater public demand. Many commentators suggest that effective alcohol campaigns only increase a producer's market share and also brand loyalty.
The intended audience of the alcohol advertising campaigns have changed over the years, with some brands being specifically targeted towards a particular demographic. Some drinks are traditionally seen as a male drink, particularly beers and whiskies, while others are drunk by females. Some brands have allegedly been specifically developed to appeal to people that would not normally drink that kind of beverage.
One area in which the alcohol industry has faced criticism and tightened legislation is in their alleged targeting of young people. Central to this is the development of alcopops – sweet-tasting, brightly coloured drinks with names that may appeal to a younger audience. However, numerous government and other reports have failed to support that allegation.
There have been several disputes over whether alcohol advertisements are targeting teens. There happens to be heavy amounts of alcohol advertising that appears to make drinking fun and exciting. Alcohol advertisements can be seen virtually anywhere, they are especially known for sponsoring sporting events, concerts, magazines, and they are found anywhere on the internet. Most of the vendors’ websites require an age of 21 to enter, but there is no restriction besides simply entering a birth date. With the catchy slogans, the idea that drinking is trendy, and no mention of the negative side of excessive use such advertising could be very harmful. A study done by the American Journal of Public Health concluded that Boston train passengers between the ages of 11 and 18 saw an alcohol-related advertisement everyday. There have been studies similar to this, which supports the allegation that underage consumption of alcohol is in correlation with the exposure of alcohol ads. In response, many cities have recognized the effect of alcohol-related ads on adolescents and in some cities these advertisements have been banned on public transportation. It is difficult to make definite allegations regarding youth exposure to these types of advertisements but it is necessary to find ways in which these allegations may be limited.
On the other hand, vendors do not see their ads as a target for teens, and claim they should not be held responsible if they indirectly target minors. Their argument is that companies and businesses rely heavily upon advertising, and they cannot help it if minors see these advertisements. Vendors also invest money in alcohol prevention and awareness programs each year.
Whether young people are directly targeted by alcohol advertisers or not, they are exposed to alcohol advertising on television, in print media, and on radio. In fact, 45% of the commercials that young people view each year are advertisements for alcohol. A first question to be answered through rigorous research, therefore, is whether alcohol advertising does have an impact on alcohol consumption amongst young people. The National Household Survey on Drug Abuse reports the rates of binge alcohol use in 2008 were 1.5 percent among 12 or 13 years old, 6.9 percent among 14 or 15 years old, 17.2 percent among 16 or 17 years old, 33.7 percent among persons aged 18 to 20. In 2009, the rates for each group of underage alcohol usage increased by a fourth.
According to 2001 College Alcohol Study (CAS), continuous alcohol promotions and advertisements including lowering prices on certain types of alcohol on a college campus have increased the percentage of alcohol consumption of that college community. Alcohol advertising on college campuses have also shown to increase binge drinking among students. However, it is concluded that the consistency of these special promotions and ads could also be useful in reducing binge drinking and other related drinking problems on campus. (Kuo, 2000, Wechsler 2000, Greenberg 2000, Lee 2000).
- Results from one study indicate that beer advertisements are a significant predictor of an adolescent's knowledge, preference, and loyalty for beer brands, as well as current drinking behavior and intentions to drink (Gentile, 2001).
- Television advertising changes attitudes about drinking. Young people report more positive feelings about drinking and their own likelihood to drink after viewing alcohol ads (Austin, 1994; Grube, 1994).
- The alcohol industry spends $2 billion per year on all media advertising (Strasburger, 1999).
- The beer brewing industry itself spent more than $770 million on television ads and $15 million on radio ads in 2000 (Center for Science in the Public Interest, 2002).
Research clearly indicates that, in addition to parents and peers, alcohol advertising and marketing have a significant impact on youth decisions to drink. (The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth [CAMY]).
"While many factors may influence an underage person's drinking decisions, including among other things parents, peers and the media, there is reason to believe that advertising also plays a role." (Federal Trade Commission, Self-Regulation in the Alcohol Industry, 1999)
Parents and peers have a large impact on youth decisions to drink. However, research clearly indicates that alcohol advertising and marketing also have a significant effect by influencing youth and adult expectations and attitudes, and helping to create an environment that promotes underage drinking.
Advertising around the world
The World Health Organization (WHO) has specified that the advertising and promotion of alcohol needs to be controlled. In September 2005, the WHO Euro Region adopted a Framework for Alcohol Policy for the Region. This has 5 ethical principles which includes "All children and adolescents have the right to grow up in an environment protected from the negative consequences of alcohol consumption and, to the extent possible, from the promotion of alcoholic beverages".
Cross-border television advertising within the European Union was previously regulated by the 1989 Television without Frontiers Directive, a harmonisation measure designed to remove barriers to international trade as part of the common market. Article 15 of this Directive sets out the restrictions on alcohol advertising:
- "it may not be aimed specifically at minors or, in particular, depict minors consuming these beverages;
- it shall not link the consumption of alcohol to enhanced physical performance or to driving;
- it shall not create the impression that the consumption of alcohol contributes towards social or sexual success;
- it shall not claim that alcohol has therapeutic qualities or that it is a stimulant, a sedative or a means of resolving personal conflicts;
- it shall not encourage immoderate consumption of alcohol or present abstinence or moderation in a negative light;
- it shall not place emphasis on high alcoholic content as being a positive quality of the beverages."
This article on alcohol advertising restrictions is implemented in each EU country largely through the self-regulatory bodies dealing with advertising.
The EU law 'TV without Frontiers' Directive has subsequently been expanded to cover new media formats such as digital television. Now called the 'Audiovisual Media Services Directive', the provisions regarding restrictions on alcohol advertising are laid out in Article 22 and are identical to the above.
In the United States, spirits advertising has self-regulatory bodies that create standards for the ethical advertising of alcohol. The special concern is where advertising is placed.
Currently, the standard is that alcohol advertisements can only be placed in media where 70% of the audience is over the legal drinking age. Alcohol advertising's creative messages should not be designed to appeal to people under the age of 21, for example, using cartoon characters as spokespeople is discouraged. Advertising cannot promote brands based on alcohol content or its effects. Advertising must not encourage irresponsible drinking. Another issue in media placement is whether media vendors will accept alcohol advertising. The decision to accept an individual ad or a category of advertising is always at the discretion of the owner or publisher of a media outlet.
In the United States, there are several television networks that, although their viewers may be above the legal drinking age, do not accept "vice" advertising like alcohol advertising on principle. Currently the tobacco industry is forbidden to advertise on TV. Because of strong self-regulation, alcohol advertising has mostly avoided regulation by the federal government.
The Federal Trade Commission has conducted investigations of possible targeting to those under the age of 21. However, its investigations and that of scholars have not found evidence of such targeting. Concerns exist that irresponsible advertising practices or "pushing the envelope" with audience composition may lead to permanent legislation governing the advertising of beverage alcohol. Additionally, consumers typically don't see people consuming the beverages being advertised.
In Malaysia, alcohol advertising on radio and televisions was outlawed in 1995. On Malaysian television, alcohol advertising is not shown before 10:00 pm and during Malay-language programs. However, non-Malay newspapers and magazines are allowed to continue alcohol advertising. Supermarkets and hypermarkets have also been criticized for advertising alcohol products on trolleys, which is controversial because Islam is the state religion of the country. After the ban of alcohol advertising on Malaysian radio and televisions, they continued to build the brands with sponsorships of concerts and entertainment events.
In Singapore, alcohol advertisement is not allowed to be shown during programmes intended for children and young persons and during Malay-language programmes.
In Hong Kong, alcohol advertising is not allowed to be shown during Family Viewing Hour programmes.
According to Swedish law, advertisements for alcohol are generally forbidden. However, advertisement is permitted for beverages identified as "class 1" or "light beer." Other beverages, such as medium and strong beers (3.5% alcohol or more), which share a name with advertised light beers may benefit from this. Since 2005, newspapers have allowed advertisements for wine, and later for spirits, based on the provisions of an EU directive. The government of Sweden has protested these advertisements, but EU laws are applicable in Sweden unless clearly shown to be invalid in Swedish jurisdiction. These advertisements contain warnings which are worded less strongly than the warnings on tobacco products - for example, "Avoid drinking while pregnant," as opposed to "smoking kills."
Responsible drinking campaigns
There have been various campaigns to help prevent alcoholism, under-age drinking and drunk driving. The Portman Group, an association of leading drinks producers in the UK, are responsible for various such campaigns. These include responsible drinking, drink driving (and designated drivers), proof of age cards. The Drink Aware campaign, for example, aims to educate people about how to drink sensibly and avoid binge drinking. The web site address is displayed as part of all of the adverts for products made by members of the group.
The Century Council, financially supported by a group of alcoholic beverage distillers in the United States, promotes responsible decision-making regarding drinking or non-drinking and works to reduce all forms of irresponsible consumption. Since its founding in 1991, it has invested over 175 million dollars in its programs.
Many campaigns by the alcoholic beverage industry that advocate responsible drinking presuppose that drinking for recreational purposes is a positive activity and reinforce this idea as an example of sensible consumption. Persons who believe alcohol can never simultaneously be used "sensibly" and recreationally would obviously disagree with the focus or direction of these campaigns.
A controversial anti-drunk driving advertisement in South Africa has threatened the public with rape in prison. The campaign is still underway with no reported complaints to the advertising standards authorities.
Sponsorship in sport
The sponsorship of sporting events and sportspeople is banned in many countries. For example, the primary club competition in European rugby union, the Heineken Cup, is called the H Cup in France because of that country's restrictions on alcohol advertising. However, such sponsorship is still common in other areas, such as the United States, although such sponsorship is controversial as children are often a target audience for major professional sports leagues.
Alcohol advertising is common in motor racing competitions, and is particularly prominent in NASCAR racing. One major example of this was the Busch Series (since renamed Nationwide Series), sponsored by a brand of beer sold by Anheuser-Busch. That sponsorship, which started in the series' conversion from a national Late Model Sportsman races around the country to the present touring format in 1982, ended after 2007.
Furthermore, NASCAR mandates drivers under 21 not be permitted to wear any alcohol-branded sticker on their cars. In cases with below drinking age drivers, a specialised "Coors Pole Award - 21 Means 21" sticker is placed on such drivers' cars. One team, Petty Enterprises, refuses to participate in alcohol advertising and forfeits all alcohol monies and bonuses.
For distilled spirits, teams must run a responsible drinking sticker clearly visible on the car. For Jack Daniel's, the theme is "Pace Yourself, Drink Responsibly", and includes on NASCAR's Web site a waving yellow flag warning drinkers. For Crown Royal, the television ads feature the car with the slogan "Be a champion, Drink Responsibly" and it acting as a pace car to drivers, warning them of responsibility. Jim Beam has radio ads and NASCAR mandated statements about alcohol control. None of the three, however, is a full-time sponsor, as they alternate sponsorship with other products unrelated to their firm on the car. (Jim Beam's parent, Fortune Brands, sometimes has its Moen Faucets replace Jim Beam on the car in selected races.)
Although tobacco companies have been the main source of financial backing in Formula One, some alcohol brands have also been associated with the sport. For example, Budweiser appears on the Williams F1 car and the Foster's Group (with the Foster's Lager brand) sponsor numerous circuits around the world, most notably Fosters Australian Grand Prix in Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia. Becks had been Jaguar's sponsor. Johnnie Walker has sponsored McLaren since 2006.
Anheuser-Busch, being a conglomerate with non-alcoholic properties, complies with the French alcohol advertising ban in Formula One by placing their Busch Entertainment theme park logos (mostly Sea World) where their Budweiser logo would appear on the Williams F1 car at races where alcohol advertising is banned and in Middle Eastern countries, where alcohol advertising is discouraged. A few companies, however, have added responsible drinking campaigns with their sponsorship, notably the 1989-90 BTCC Ford Sierra RS500 of Tim Harvey and Laurence Bristow, which was sponsored by Labatt. Throughout the two seasons, the car bore a "Please Don't Drink and Drive" message.
Some stadiums, particularly in the U.S., bear the names of breweries or beer brands via naming rights arrangements, such as Busch Stadium, Coors Field, and Miller Park; those three venues are all in or near the cities of their headquarters.
Diageo are a major sponsor of many sporting events through their various brands. For example, Johnnie Walker sponsor the Championship at Gleneagles and Classic golf tournaments along with the Team McLaren Formula One car.
Cricket is a sport with a large amount of alcohol sponsorship. The 2005 Ashes, for example, featured sponsorship hoardings by brands such as Red Stripe, Thwaites Lancaster Bomber and Wolf Blass wines.
Rugby union also has a substantial amount of alcohol sponsorship. The All Blacks feature Steinlager sponsorship prominently. The Scotland national team has a long-established relationship with The Famous Grouse, a brand of Scotch whisky. Wales has a more recent relationship with the Brains brewery (But wear "Brawn" when playing in France), and the Springboks of South Africa agreed for South African Breweries to put the Castle Lager brand on their shirt until 2004. Magners is the title sponsor of the Magners League, the top competition in Ireland, Scotland and Wales, Guinness is the title sponsor of the Guinness Premiership, the top competition in England, and the beer brand Tooheys New was the Australian sponsor of the Southern Hemisphere Super 14 competition through the 2006 season. Bundaberg Rum is one of the sponsors of the Australia national rugby union team.
Guinness' iconic stature can be attributed in part to its advertising campaigns. One of the most notable and recognizable series of adverts was created by S.H. Benson's advertising, primarily John Gilroy, in the 1930s and 40s. Gilroy was responsible for creating posters which included such phrases such as "Guinness for Strength", "It's a Lovely Day for a Guinness", and most famously, "Guinness is Good For You". The posters featured Gilroy's distinctive artwork and more often than not featured animals such as a kangaroo, ostrich, seal, lion, and notably a toucan, which has become as much a symbol of Guinness as the Trinity College Harp. Guinness advertising paraphernalia attracts high prices on the collectible market.
In a campaign reminiscent of viral marketing techniques, one advert quickly appeared as a screensaver distributed over the Internet. It was a simple concept, featuring Dublin actor Joe McKinney dancing around the drink while it was given time to settle. The accompanying music (mambo tune Guaglione by Pérez Prado) was released as a single and reached number one on the Irish charts and number two on the UK charts in May 1995.
In Malaysia, Singapore, and Hong Kong, Guinness launched a $8 million advertising campaign using the fictional character of Adam King to promote the embodiment of Guinness as a man could be incredibly powerful. The advertising campaign was handled by advertising firm, Saatchi & Saatchi.
Today, Guinness' principal television campaign in North America consists of limited animation commercials featuring two eccentric scientists in 19th century dress complimenting one another's ideas as "brilliant!"
Absolut vodka is made in Sweden and was introduced to the United States in the year 1979. Its launch was a true challenge due to a variety of factors: Sweden was not perceived as a vodka-producing country, the bottle was very awkward for bartenders to use, and vodka was perceived as a cheap, tasteless drink. Absolut's advertising campaign by TBWA exploited the shape of the bottle to create clever advertisements that caused people to become involved in the advertising, and the brand took off. Before Absolut, there were very few distinctions in the vodka category. Today there are regular, premium, and superpremium vodkas each at different price points and qualities. Flavored vodkas have become ubiquitous and may be found commonly at regular and premium price points.
Alcohol sponsorship in sport
Sport has been suggested to be one of the primary, if not the dominant, medium for the promotion of alcohol and drinking to the general population with the majority of advertising spend an advertising placement occurring in sport. Work from New Zealand  and Australia shows that sponsorship of sports participants or athletes is associated with more hazardous drinking. With calls from the UK, Australia, and New Zealand, for bans on alcohol industry sponsorship and advertising in sport.
- Group Against Liquor Advertising (GALA) (in New Zealand)
- (FTC Says Alcohol Type Not Aimed at Minors. Los Angeles Times, June 5, 2002; Nelson, Jon P. Alcohol advertising in magazines: Do beer, wine, and spirits ads target youth? Contemporary Economic Policy, July 2006, pp. 357-69)
- Meichun Kuo, Henry Wechsler, Patty Greenberg, Hang Lee (October 2003). "The marketing of alcohol to college students". American Journal of Preventive Medicine 25 (3): 204–211. doi:10.1016/S0749-3797(03)00200-9.
- "Framework for alcohol policy in the WHO European Region" (PDF). World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe. April 4, 2006. Retrieved June 6, 2013.
- Council Directive 89/552/EEC of 3 October 1989 on the coordination of certain provisions laid down by Law, Regulation or Administrative Action in Member States concerning the pursuit of television broadcasting activities
- Directive 2010/13/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 10 March 2010 on the coordination of certain provisions laid down by law, regulation or administrative action in Member States concerning the provision of audiovisual media services (Audiovisual Media Services Directive)
- Tobacco, alcohol advertising bans take effect in printed media, Kyiv Post (January 1, 2010)
- "Sri Lanka bans public smoking, alcohol, tobacco advertising". Asian Tribune. July 6, 2006. Retrieved June 6, 2013.
- Kenya to outlaw alcohol adverts from BBC News
- "Drink-drive campaign gets ugly". Independent Online. December 4, 2010. Retrieved June 6, 2013.
- The Australian newspaper, March 31, 2007 Story: "The time has come to end glamourising alcohol sponsorship"
- Who is Adam King?
- Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth 2004. Alcohol Advertising on Sports Television 2001 to 2003. Available at: http://www.camy.org/bin/s/a/Alcohol_Advertising_on_Sports_Television.pdf
- O'Brien K, and Kypri K. Alcohol industry sponsorship of sport and hazardous drinking among New Zealand sportspeople. Addiction 2008; 103(12): 1961-6.
- O’Brien K.S., Miller P.G., Kolt G.S., Martens M.P., Webber A. Alcohol industry and non-alcohol industry sponsorship of sportspeople and drinking. Alcohol and Alcoholism 2011; 46: 210-13.
- Two articles among many are Effects of Alcohol Advertising Exposure on Drinking Among Youth, Snyder et al., Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med/ Vol 160, Jan 2006 pg. 18-24 and Exposure to Television Ads and Subsequent Adolescent Alcohol Use, Stacy et al., American Journal of Health Behavior, Nov-Dec 2004, pg. 498-509. To view the literature go to pubmed.gov and search for alcohol advertising and adolescent behavior or some iteration of this. These articles and related studies are reviewed in J.P. Nelson, "What is Learned from Longitudinal Studies of Advertising and Youth Drinking and Smoking?" International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 7(3), March 2010, pp. 870–926. Open Access: http://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/7/3/870; and J.P. Nelson, "Alcohol Marketing, Adolescent Drinking, and Publication Bias in Longitudinal Studies: A Critical Survey using Meta-Analysis," Journal of Economic Surveys, 25(2), April 2011, pp. 191–232.
- 27 July 2005. "Drinks adverts told 'no sexy men'" at BBC News. Accessed 27 July 2005.
- Federal Trade Commission. Alcohol Marketing and Advertising: A Report to Congress. Washington, DC: Federal Trade Commission, 2003.
- Fisher, Joseph C. Advertising, Alcohol Consumption, and Abuse: A Worldwide Survey. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1993, p. 150.
- Frankena, M., Cohen, M., Daniel, T., Ehrlich, L., Greenspun, N., and Kelman, D. Alcohol Advertising, Consumption and Abuse. In: Federal Trade Commission. Recommendations of the Staff of the Federal Trade Commission: Omnibus Petition for Regulation of Unfair and Deceptive Alcoholic Beverage Marketing Practices, Docket No. 209-46. Washington, DC: Federal Trade Commission, 1985.
- Sanders, James. Alcohol Advertisements Do Not Encourage Alcohol Abuse Among Teens. In: Wekesser, Carol (ed.) Alcoholism. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 1994. Pp. 132–135, p. 133.
- "Issues" at the Distilled Spirits Industry Council of Australia Inc. site
- "Code Of Responsible Practices for Beverage Alcohol Advertising and Marketing" at the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States site
- A collection of alcohol advertisements from 1840 - 2000
- The Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code (ABAC) at ASA.co.nz
- Canadian Advertising Codes and Guidelines – Overview at the Media Awareness Network
- "Advertising Alcohol" at Alcohol Concern
- "Advertising Alcohol and the First Amendment" at the Federal Trade Commission site
- The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth
- "Alcohol Advertising"
- Gallery of American print alcohol advertising
- "White Paper: alcohol sponsorship", European Sponsorship Association