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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.

Scientific research around the world conducted by governments, health agencies and universities has, 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. It is in the alcohol industry's interest to demonstrate that effective alcohol campaigns only increase a producer's market share and also brand loyalty.

Campaign intentions

Many advertising campaigns have attempted to increase consumption, brand and customer loyalty.

Target markets

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, 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 have faced criticism and tightened legislation is in their alleged targeting of young people. Central to this is the development of alcopopssweet-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.

Advertising around the world

The European Union and World Health Organization (WHO) have both 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" [164895]. Cross-border television advertising within the EU is regulated by the 1989 Television without Frontiers Directive. 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 is currently being revised to broaden the scope to new media formats such as digital television. Now called the 'Audiovisual Directive', the European Parliament is voting on the new text of the legislation in December 2006.

A number of non-governmental organisations working on alcohol policy have raised questions about whether the restrictions on alcohol advertising in Article 15 are effective and being properly implemented. For the Audiovisual Directive, they are calling on Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to vote for a ban on alcohol adverts on televisions before 9.00 p.m.

Some countries, such as Kenyamarker, Francemarker, and Norwaymarker, have banned all alcohol advertising on television and billboard.

United Kingdom

Ofcommarker and the Advertising Standards Authority has some control over what can and cannot appear in advertising campaigns in the United Kingdommarker. In January 2005 an Ofcom ruling stated that the campaigns should not imply that there is a link between the consumption of alcohol and social or sexual success, or the perception of physical attractiveness. Lambrini, for example, were told to change their adverts in July 2005 when it depicted three women gaining the attention of an attractive man – they were told to change it to a show an unattractive man. The first billboards to be withdrawn under this ruling were those of Young's Bitter on 11 January 2006.Greene King, a brewer which owns over 750 pubs in the UK, decided in February 2005 to cease the sale of drinks and cocktails with undesirable connotations behind their names. Any that had an association "with sexual promiscuity, machismo, anti-social behaviour or illegal acts" were banned.

United States

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.


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.

Sponsorship in sport

The sponsor 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 Francemarker because of that country's restrictions on alcohol advertising. However, such sponsorship is still common in other areas, such as the United Statesmarker.

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-Buschmarker. 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.

Budweiser, the best-known Anheuser-Busch brand, currently sponsors the car of Kasey Kahne, arguably one of the most popular Sprint Cup Series drivers.

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'smarker, 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 Faucet 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 WilliamsF1 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 McLarenmarker 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 WilliamsF1 car at races where alcohol advertising is banned and in Middle Eastern countries, where alcohol advertising is discouraged. Few companies, however, 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 Stadiummarker, Coors Fieldmarker, and Miller Parkmarker; 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 McLarenmarker 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 Bombermarker 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 Irelandmarker, Scotlandmarker and Walesmarker,Guinness is the title sponsor of the Guinness Premiership, the top competition in Englandmarker, 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.

Rugby League in Australia is sponsored by Foster's Lager and Bundaberg Rum.ash



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 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. Another famous campaign more recently is the surfer ad on the television. Regarded by many as the most successful and amazingly produced TV ad of all time, it's cinematography and underlying message of the fact that patience is a good thing (good things come to those who wait) contribute to the imagination and creativity of the ad. 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 Dublinmarker 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 Malaysiamarker, Singaporemarker, and Hong Kongmarker, 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.

In Africa, the character of Michael Power has been used since 1999 to boost sales.

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 Swedenmarker 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.

See also

  • 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 and search for alcohol advertising and adolescent behavior or some iteration of this.
  • 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.
  • Group Against Liquor Advertising (GALA) (in New Zealand)


  1. Federal Trade Commission; Fisher; Frankena et al.; Sanders
  2. (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)
  3. Television broadcasting activities: "Television without Frontiers" (TVWF) Directive from
  4. No alcohol adverts on television before 9.00 p.m./
  5. Kenya to outlaw alcohol adverts from BBC News
  6. Alcohol and sex link ban for ads from BBC News
  7. Drinks adverts told 'no sexy men' from BBC News
  8. Beer advert banned for sex link from BBC News
  9. Pub crackdown on sexy drink names from BBC News
  11. Drinkaware
  12. The Australian newspaper, March 31, 2007 Story: "The time has come to end glamourising alcohol sponsorship"
  13. Who is Adam King?

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