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Research confirms that gameday beer commercials have little to no significant effect on alcohol consumption

Turns out that repetitive ads and product replacement have an inverse effect on fans.

Dylan Buell/Getty Images

If you've watched an NFL game or any sporting event in the past decade or so, you've probably been a victim of excessive advertising. Enslaved to their televisions, fans block off about 3 hours each Sunday for game time but only spend about 11 minutes watching game action. The rest of the game is taken up by over 20 commercial breaks, and roughly 100 different advertisements. All in all, about an hour of the game, is purely commercials. Considering all of this, it's pretty to see why watching a game from the couch is almost like an endurance sport. And this is, of course, assuming that you didn't watch the pregame coverage, which is also laden with adverts and promotions.

In particular, a hallmark of gameday advertising and culture has become alcohol. Beer and other alcoholic drinks have become staples at stadiums and tailgates around the country, so it's no surprise that beer companies have tried to embed themselves in NFL culture. The top companies clamor for the right to be named "official" beer of the NFL and receive prime advertising rights and product placement. Being the "official" beer of the league means that companies can use league logos and the iconic NFL shield in advertising.

In 2011, the honor went to Anheuser-Busch InBev brew Bud Light. The six-year deal was estimated at $50 million and was extended last season for five more years. The new agreement was groundbreaking since the league gave A-B InBev the right to use NFL game footage in ads. This is a big deal because the NFL prohibits beer sponsors using actual NFL players in their commercials. Said A-B InBev CEO Carlos Brito about the new deal, "As consumers change their media viewing habits, and the way they interact with sports and the NFL, we're also changing together with the league on properties and things we can activate. And the NFL has been a very good partner in agreeing with us on changes that we need to do to continue to be relevant with that consumer base." In addition to striking a deal with the league, A-B InBev also has exclusive Super Bowl beer advertising rights and deals with 28 NFL teams regarding their logos and sponsorship deals.

But while the beer giant effectively has a monopoly on the NFL, its repetitive in-game advertising might not be as effective. The company bought three minutes and thirty seconds of ad time in this year's Super Bowl, which divided into five separate commercials. Given that a 30-second spot is estimated at $5 million by network executives, the company spent roughly $35 million on commercials for the Super Bowl. But despite the gigantic price tag and enormous audience reach (the Super Bowl breaks the record for most watched U.S. broadcast just about every year), the end result may just be marginal for the beer producers.

According to experimentation and research done by the Rutgers University Center of Alcohol Studies, "[beer] advertising [has] no significant effect on total beer consumption." Another experiment performed at the Center found that there was "no support for the widely held assumption that drinking scenes in television programs or televised advertisements for alcoholic beverages precipitate increased drinking by viewers." Even more conclusive perhaps, is the tale of Saskatchewan, a Canadian province that lifted a 58-year ban alcohol-related ads in the 80's. After analyzing sales before and after the ban, researchers reported that "there was no impact on wine and total alcohol sales from the introduction of alcohol advertising."

So what have years' worth of hard work and research proven?

  1. Repetitive alcohol advertising isn't effective.
  2. You're going to drink beer anyways.
Stay thirsty, my friends.