The most powerful alcohol companies bank on a lack of transparency. Most Americans have little idea of the true size and scope of the businesses behind the brand names, let alone the way their practices endanger the public health. In this section, we take a close look the world's top seven alcohol-producing companies and expose some of their most problematic practices.

Big Alcohol 101-slider

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Tactic: Advertising and Promotions

The alcohol industry spends an estimated $6 billion a year on advertising and promotions. The methods are various, but here are a few of the most noteworthy.

Internet Marketing

In this day and age, any company looking to reach a sizable numbers of young people must establish their brand online. In the case of Big Alcohol, this means not only advertising on other websites, but, creating compelling websites of their own that virtually overflow with games, video, music, and instant messaging accessories.

In 2004 the Center for Alcohol Marketing and Youth studied a number of alcohol sites, such as and and found that they were enormously popular with young web users because of their hi-tech features.

Social networking is also hugely popular with teens and young adults, many of whom are seen as hard to reach through traditional advertising. In Australia, for examples, a number of companies were found to be advertising on Facebook and Myspace via fake profiles of fictional characters who serve to reinforce the brand.

Related Links:

The Internet, Alcohol, and Youth

MySpace generation targeted by alcohol companies

Sponsorship of Sporting Events, Sports Teams, or Individual Athletes

The industry has worked hard over the years to create a strong association between sports and alcohol. From advertising on television and the internet, to direct sponsorship of individual athletes like NASCAR racer Dale Earnhardt Jr., sports-related promotions reach many children and young adults (particularly young men).

Related Links:

CAMY’s Alcohol Advertising on Sports Television, 2001 to 2003

CSPI’s Campaign for Alcohol-Free Sports TV

Public Entertainment Events

From Cinco De Mayo festivals to county fairs to hot air balloon festivals, Big Alcohol gravitates to regional festival and cultural celebrations as a means to reach people at times when they’re relaxed and in places they feel connected to their communities.

In response to restrictions on broadcast, print and outdoor advertising, the alcohol industry has increased the use of sponsorship agreements to keep the public aware of its brands. Alcohol companies pay anywhere from a few thousand to several hundred thousand dollars to sponsor events. Agreements usually permit the sponsor to place its brand logo and ads in the event program and on signs, tickets, T-shirts, hats, and the events Web site.

Many youth are exposed to alcohol advertising at community events. For example, Budweiser was a prominent corporate sponsor of the 2005 Arizona State Fair, where 24 percent of attendees were between ages 12 and 17.

Related Link: Free Your Festival Campaign page

Spring Break Promotions

In recent years, a number of companies have been slammed for their promotions of
all-you-can-drink spring break tours.

The companies often use Mexico to get around the (U.S.) drinking age and have come under scrutiny by Federal Trade Commission and the American Medical Association. Spring break tours also offer irrisistable advertising opportunities for major alcohol brands, because they give them the opportunity to immerse young consumers in their product for literally days at a time.

Related Links:

American Medical Association study: Sex and intoxication among women more common on spring break

Alcohol and Spring Break

Alcohol-soaked spring break lures students abroad

Product Placements

Product placement or “sealth” advertisements are “promotional ads placed by marketers using real commercial products and services in media, where the presence of a particular brand is the result of an economic exchange. When featuring a product is not part of an economic exchange, it is a product plug.

Along with cigarettes and junk food, alcoholic products are some of the most more commonly brands seen in product placements.

Recent youth-friendly films such as The Wedding Crashers (2005), Scary Movie 3 (2003), Dodgeball (2004), Spiderman (2002) and Bend it Like Bekham (2002) all included placement of alcoholic brands.


Related Links:

Tie-ins Often Sobering for Liquor Firms

Public Relations Tactics

Drink Responsibly
Industry Funding
Ineffective Educational Programs


Anheuser-Busch InBev
Molson Coors
Constellation Brands
Pernod Ricard
Beam Treasury
Remy Cointreau
The Wine Group

Trade/Front Groups

  • Beer Institute
  • Brewers Association
  • Craft Brewers
  • Wine Institute
  • FAAR
  • FW of CA
  • Craft Distillers
  • Global Alcohol Producers Group
  • ICAP

Industry Agenda

Self-regulate, deregulate, privatize
Lower/Remove taxes & fees
Expand advertising & promotion
Expand access/availability
Increase profit to owners/shareholders