Alcohol Advertising: It’s a lot about Storytelling

Alcohol Advertising: It’s a lot about Storytelling


There are loads of legal restrictions related to alcohol advertising. It cannot depict drinking youth, link alcohol consumption to enhanced physical or social performance, tell or show how fun immoderate alcohol drinking may be and so on. Due to that and a huge competition on the market, the most common and probably the best option for alcohol advertising is… yes, storytelling. There are many famous brands that successfully do it, and you can notice that there are some themes that are commonly used by many throughout the years. Shall we have a look at some of them?

Beer goes well with sports

Probably one of the most common themes in beer advertising is sports, and usually football. Sponsorship campaigns, video and other means of advertising related with sports has been done for years by many known beer brands. Everyone knows how strong and long-lasting relationship between football and beer is. And there is nothing bad in using this theme over and over again, as long as it works. The main challenge here is to come up with something new and engaging every time. Here is a great example how Heineken (the Creative Marketer at this year’s Cannes Lions) does it:

It’s a man thing

Alcohol (especially strong alcohol) has always been more targeted at men than women, so there is a common theme featuring male friendships and deeds they do together. This is also an old and tested approach, so all one has to do is build an appealing and engaging story that their target audience could relate to. I believe Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey did just that in this cinematographic story with a twist (yes, this one got nominated at Cannes Lions too):

Full version of the video is available here.


Adventure is also among popular themes in alcohol advertising. It is usually something exciting and somewhat unusual, with an unexpected ending, therefore can be very engaging if done well. Who could have thought that beer could be advertised by telling a story of a dog’s adventure, though?! Well Budweiser did it and it turned out quite well. Have a look if you have not seen it yet:

Life is about fun and experiences

This is quite similar to the one above, however experiences can but do not necessarily relate to adventure. This theme usually features a charming James Bond type of man that does things many could just dream of. Whatever he does, it always turns out well. Those ads are often laid on a bit thick, therefore are very entertaining. Here is one more example from Heineken:


The Becoming

One more rather popular option is telling one’s story about the path they’ve taken to become who they are now. It usually involves stories of early rejection, great persistence and eventually glorious results. Mostly done by brands with long history, who want to emphasize their long cherished quality standards and tradition. It is a tricky thing to talk too much about oneself, however if one finds a way to engage their audience, then why not?! Here’s a rather good (over 6 minutes long, though) example from Johnnie Walker:


Even though themes in advertising are repeating throughout the years, the stories that surround them and channels through which they are communicated differ quite significantly. Advertising is now becoming a form of art that is interesting and enjoyable to view, so even if you work with a great ad agency, it is still a good idea to have a look at what others are doing.

One last thing I would like to add is that good storytelling starts with an in-depth understanding of those whom you are telling the story to. Tastes are changing, consumption habits are changing, pretty much everything is constantly changing, therefore no matter the common themes, you simply cannot create an engaging story if you do not know what your consumers currently care about. So do your research and then go put your creative hat on.

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