In a touchdown of sorts for the spirits industry, the National Football League has officially lifted its ban on liquor ads.
Describing the change as a “2017 NFL season test,” the league imposed several extra rules for liquor advertisements that do not apply to other products (including beer). Only four 30-second liquor ads will be permitted per game, with an additional limit of two ads during any one quarter or during halftime.
The advertisements may not have a football theme, target underage drinkers or contain sponsorship messages. In addition, liquor ads must also include a “prominent social responsibility message,” and at least 20 percent of ads airing during the season must consist “exclusively of social responsibility messaging.”
CBS, ESPN, Fox and NBC all partner with the league and will be permitted to run two additional spots during their pre- and post-game programming.
“This is welcome 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,” Kraig R. Nasaz, president and CEO of the Distilled Spirits Council, a group that represents the liquor industry, told AdAge. “Adult fans realize alcohol is alcohol and our responsible spirits sports marketing has been met with broad public acceptance.”
Why the change of heart by the NFL? The addition of liquor ads reflects both societal changes (liquor ads did not appear on any TV show from 1948 to 1996 due to a self-imposed ban) as well as financial trends. Liquor has increased its share of the alcohol market from 28 to 32 percent, while beer dropped from 58 to 50 percent.
Including liquor advertisements doesn’t mean the NFL has changed its position on several other products or services that remain prohibited from advertising during its games, including energy drinks, birth control products and gambling sites.
Why it matters: Even with the limitations placed on liquor advertisements, their inclusion during game broadcasts allows the NFL to tap into an additional advertising revenue stream. It may also suggest that the league may soon accept ads from other currently prohibited groups.