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Friday, June 9, 2017

Spirits Industry Welcomes NFL Lifting Spirits Ad Ban

     The US National Football League’s (NFL) decision to allow adverts for hard liquor is “welcome news”, according to the Distilled Spirits Council.   Last week, the American football league changed its advertising policy and will now allow its TV partners to air spirits commercials.  Adverts will last no longer than 30 seconds, must include a “prominent” social responsibility message, and cannot target underage drinkers.  Television networks will only be allowed to broadcast four ads per game, and will be limited to two per quarter or during half time.  It will be the first time spirits producers will be given access to game time advertising spots in what has otherwise been an almost exclusively beer-dominated arena.
     While the move is a “one-season test” for 2017, it is expected to become permanent, a report in The Wall Street Journal“This is welcomed news but not too surprising given spirits companies have partnered with individual NFL teams, and other major professional sports leagues began accepting spirits advertising more than a decade ago,” Distilled Spirits Council President & CEO Kraig R. Naasz said.   “Adult fans realize alcohol is alcohol, and our responsible spirits sports marketing has been met with broad public acceptance.”
Several spirits brands already sponsor or back NFL teams.    
     Big beer dominates alcohol advertising and sponsorship in the NFL. AB InBev, especially with its Bud Light brand, is the league’s official beer sponsor and partner of the majority of the teams, while Miller/Coors is also a key advertiser.   One concession to the inclusion of spirits advertising during games is that the brewers will now be able to advertise their ‘flavored malt beverages’ for the first time – products such as Bud Light’s ‘Lime-A-Rita’ – but they will also be governed by the rules that cover spirits.      So far there does not appear to be any indication that any of the drinks giants has been chosen as an ‘official partner of the NFL’, presumably leaving the way clear for the likes of Pernod Ricard, Diageo, Bacardi and Beam Suntory to jockey for position.  Advertising in the NFL does not come cheaply, a 30-second spot during the Super Bowl now costs over US$5 million.  The companies in question are not tight for money, all of them command multi-billions worth of portfolios, spirits consumption is growing in the US and as the NFL is the most-watched pro-sport in the US and with growing following around the world.   The UK, Germany, Australia and Mexico in particular – one can be sure the opportunity hasn’t passed the big spirits producers.

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