Alcohol Industry’s Advertising in North America


Advertising is the promotion of a certain product through a variety of media. Since the inception of internet and the subsequent generational change, there has been tremendous change in the manner in which companies place their advertisements. The use of mobile advertising is quite popular with studies showing that it will be the most preferred by 2016. Television advertising is still quite popular though it is largely driven by prime times and major programs.

This transformation is across the board. However, a look at alcohol advertising in North America paints an even more interesting picture. This paper looks at the nature of advertising alcohol in North America, how effective this advertising is, and the influence on the general populace (Mims, 2012).

Nature of Advertising

Alcohol advertising is diverse in nature. Companies spend so much money to create awareness of alcohol. Most of this advertising is on broadcast media. This includes radio, television, and other news channel. In these broadcast media, maximum attention is directed towards particular prime times and certain programs. In North America in particular, most of alcohol advertisements (over 90%) appear in sports programs.

This is of particular importance to target the specific audiences. In Canada, for example, alcohol advertising features prominently when the popular game of hockey is underway. While majority of Canadians watch hockey games on television, a significant number attend live games. In these arenas, alcohol is massively advertised and estimations show that for every ten Canadians that watch these games, half drink alcohol related content while at it.

In America, American soccer is a popular pastime (Martin et al. 2002).This is what culminates into super bowl Sundays. It is common knowledge that during these Sundays, advertisers pay a lot of money to place their adverts. A check at these adverts indicates that majority of them are automobile related.

Interestingly, the second largest category is alcohol ads. Hence, sports programming is a popular way to advertise alcohol in North America. Pundits indicate that it accounts to over 90% of the total alcohol advertisements (Mims, 2012).

The second most popular programming that attracts alcohol advertising is prime time television. For example when broadcasting news, when analyzing hot political topics, or when a certain popular show is been broadcast in television. All these are times when alcohol advertising is broadcast. However, it is important to note that certain laws govern prime time adverting of alcohol.

For example, in United States certain laws indicate that when advertising alcohol, 70% of the audience should be of above alcohol drinking age. Additionally, the message should explicitly expose the dangers of consuming alcohol. The laws are similar in Canada with special interest in letting the public know the danger of using alcoholic contents. The laws are also aimed at protecting young people who the advertisers deliberately target (Martin et al. 2002).

Alcohol advertisers advertise mostly on weekends. This is not by accident but design. During weekends, most young people are likely to engage in leisure activities, which are synonymous to drinking alcohol related products. This forms a very influential platform for advertisers. Research indicates that over 90% of alcohol is consumed on weekends. This rubber-stamps the strategic move to advertise on weekends.

Influence on General Populace

Over the years, research has indicated a general direct effect of alcohol advertisements to consumption. However, there is no direct relationship between increased alcohol consumption and advertising. The manner in which companies advertise, as noted above, indicate that the greatest target audience is the youth.

While it is logical to conclude that advertisements on weekends may result in a specific target audience of young people, it is risky too. This is because most underage people are also free on weekends. Laws in both Canada and USA prohibit this. However, advertisers continue to do it albeit expertly avoiding these legal pitfalls (Mims, 2012).

Alcohol advertisements do not necessarily lead to higher consumption. Studies indicate that alcohol advertisements lead to brand loyalty and increase the market share of alcohol companies. It is crucial to note that these advertisements have the effect of bringing new alcohol consuming people on board (Martin et al. 2002).

The most affected people are the youth. The advertising channels and the nature of advertising adopted by alcohol companies have the direct influence on youthful audience. The advertisers associate alcohol consumption to class and a high status in society. It is also common for alcohol to be associated to success.

This is the reason they advertise on popular games. Hence, youthful audiences are carried away and are easily influenced by these adverts (Grube, 2012).

In addition to the above analysis, it is crucial to analyze the main advertising channels and the manner in which they are changing in the face of globalization and internet. Mobile advertising and internet related advertising is quickly gaining ground. Studies indicate that by 2016, mobile and internet advertising will surpass all traditional advertising channels combined.

These traditional channels include radio, television, print-media, and personal marketing. Hence, companies are shifting towards social media sites such as Face book, Twitter, Instagram and MySpace to advertise alcohol (Mims, 2012).

The flipside to these advertisements is the potential of reaching unintended audiences. There are no legal structures in North America to govern the impact of these ads to audiences of lesser ages strictly. However, it is simple and relatively cheap to advertise on these channels (Grube, 2012).

Effectiveness of Advertising

Alcohol advertising is quite popular the world over. Alcohol selling companies stake in millions in profits. As noted earlier, there is not statistically proven correlation between alcohol consumption and advertising. However, these companies continually increase their market share and promote brand loyalty. The advertisements mostly affect the youth.

The currently trending internet and mobile advertising affects the youth most with over 90% of the youth directly exposed to raw adverts on alcohol. This is the same case with the nature of advertising adopted by these companies on other channels such as print media, radio, and television advertising.

Estimates indicate that close to 90% of youthful audiences are exposed to televised alcohol advertising. In the year 2010 for example, light television viewers were exposed to over 400 alcohol advertisements annually. Heavy television viewers at the same time were exposed to over 800 television ads around the same time (Grube, 2012).

Television advertisements are supposed to reach certain legally permitted audiences. This excludes children below the age of majority, which is 21, in North America. However, this is not usually the case. With the increased internet usage, children below this age are continually been exposed to such ads. The USA and Canadian legal fraternity is grappling with ways to try to curb this by proposing laws that govern alcohol advertising.

However, not much has been achieved since it is not possible to determine the age of a person who subscribes to social media sites or sites that are popular with such adverts.

These sites include sports promotion sites. Additionally, while companies may try to limit advertisements to sports programming, the audiences that watch these sports are mixed in terms of age. Families attend them, which constitutes young children who are exposed (Martin et al. 2002).

The above analysis indicates that the effectiveness of alcohol advertising is a critical area of discussion. There is no any right way to justify the wrong audiences who are exposed. The big question that many pundits ask is whether this scenario is by design or default. A critical analysis indicates that this is all by design. Alcohol companies are normally desperate to consolidate their market. They are also desperate to ensure loyalty to their brands.

The best to do this is to expose youthful audiences to the coolness associated with alcohol consumption. This sticks in their heads and they grow knowing that alcohol is good. There is no direct way of admitting this (Martin et al. 2002). However, North America’s legal system requires that alcohol advertisements be captioned with the danger of consuming too much.

This may have the mitigating effect of discouraging alcohol consumption albeit at a minimal percentage. In conclusion, alcohol advertisements have both positive and negative effects. However, while positive effects can be readily quantified, the negative ones have to be carefully deduced from the effect it has on society. In North America, at least 60% of people consume alcohol related content.


Grube, W. (2012). Alcohol in the Media: Drinking Portrayals, Alcohol Advertising, and Alcohol Consumption among Youth. Web.

Martin S. et al. (2002). Alcohol Advertising and Youth. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 1(26):900–906.

Mims, C. (2012). By 2016 In North America, Mobile Advertising Could Be Bigger Than Today’s Entire Online Ad Market. Web.

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