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The Spirit(s) of NFL Advertising

116 & West

Spirits ads during NFL gamesThe NFL is synonymous with large-scale advertising campaigns and has been such for as long as many of us can remember. NFL advertising serves especially well as a way to launch new campaigns and to showcase new creative to the masses. Whether it is during the regular season, or at the biggest stage of them all, The Super Bowl, the relationship between football and advertising isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. With average viewership around all-time highs and an extremely engaged audience of rabid fans and fantasy footballers, there are fewer places more effective to run TV campaigns for many advertisers.

As the NFL machine continues to grow and more and more companies flock to advertising on the coveted primetime games, networks are able to increase the value of their advertising packages during these highly coveted timeslots. This year, the NFL is allowing the advertising of liquor during their programming, which is a first. Spirits and liquor advertising seems like a natural fit with the longtime marriage between football and beer.

Liquor Advertising Guidelines

While this may put added pressure on beer manufacturers around the country, it could lead to some very interesting creative between the competing industries. This is especially true when you take into account that liquor ads cannot be directly football-themed like their beer counterparts, and must instead carry a message of “prominent social responsibility,” as originally reported by the Wall Street Journal in June of this year.

However, as you’ll see from the example from Crown Royal below (the first to take advantage of this new advertising avenue), even while the ads cannot directly reference football they do a very good job of eliciting the feeling surrounding football season and tie some very direct correlations to the sport of football without explicitly mentioning it. It is expected that this route will continue until the NFL explicitly changes the language to allow more direct tie-ins, should they choose to give more freedom to these advertisers as they do with other partnerships.

Historically, the NFL has been very stringent in regards to what they do and do not allow in terms of advertisers. Items on the current list of banned subjects for advertising include certain vitamin and supplement companies, gambling, tourism to areas where gambling is prevalent (casinos/hotels), violent films & video games, and energy drinks.

Crown Royal Takes the Initiative

The first liquor brand to take advantage of this new capability was Crown Royal. Below are the 0:30 & 0:60 cuts of their latest ad, which talks about the importance of hydration on game day. While it doesn’t explicitly mention football (as stated in the guidelines), Crown Royal does a very good job of making strong connections to the sport, along with adding a very important social message of staying hydrated and drinking responsibly.
Crown Royal :30 Second Spot:
Crown Royal :60 Second Spot:

What it Means for Advertisers

So what does it all boil down to? Well, for alcohol producers, it means that you can now take part in the multi-billion dollar pie that is the NFL. From an advertiser’s standpoint, the lifting of this ban on liquor and spirits advertising is a welcome one, as beer advertising has been a long and (mostly) beautiful partnership with the NFL. However, with the inability to currently include football-themed ads that promote the purchase of liquor and spirits, it is difficult to fully leverage some of the aspects that make advertising during NFL games so effective.

Where alcohol and spirit advertising is headed in regards to the NFL over the next few years is anyone’s best guess, however, we expect to see them continue to become increasingly commonplace. Eventually, they may be just as much a part of the NFL as beer ads are – only time will tell.

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