We have examined in depth the advertising strategies alcohol companies employ across a variety of media, as well as other publicity actions such as sponsorships. Though exceptions certainly exist, we have observed a sweeping trend of common disparities in marketing to different genders. Given practically any ad, it is almost always highly evident which gender the alcoholic product is being marketed towards. For women these take a more passive role, and are linked to fruity, feminine “easy to drink”, sweet tastes. For men, the ads imply dominant activism, and tend to be connected with bitter beers, though there is some overlap. Beer is rarely ever marketed towards women, however. It is uncommon to find an advertisement for alcohol that is gender-neutral or intended to question gender stereotypes. Why is gender stereotyping so commonly used as criteria by alcohol ad agencies? This may have to do with advertising companies recognizing sexism in our society and exploiting it for profit, by trying to link their product with a sense of attractiveness towards the opposite gender. In our society, though drinking is common to all age types (save children and many teenagers), it is deeply integrated with the social habits of young adults. Nightlife and alcohol go hand in hand, and this is generally the stage in life where people are most concerned with attracting a mate, rather than achieving professional success, or raising a family.



This commercial is obviously geared towards men. It uses the objectification of women as a marketing tool to entice male audiences into using their product. It is definitely too inappropriate for TV audiences in the United States but I found that it perfectly exemplified our hypothesis. Alcohol advertisements are very meticulously designed to be geared towards specific gender audiences. This video is advertising Guinness beer, and is congruent with a pretty standard advertising trend in most beer ads, geared towards sex and geared towards men. This commercial in particular is aimed at a younger, more immature audiences. The men in the ad treat the beer in a congruent fashion as they do the woman, as an object that is to be shared. The concept of objectifying this woman and relating “share one with a friend” to both the beer bottle and the female is an inappropriate ideology that is unfortunately widely shared in many cultures. Again, this specific commercial is an extreme of the techniques used to market beer to en, but does an excellent job of exemplifying the concept of using sex to sell alcohol.


The Strong Silent Type focuses on “being in charge, acting decisively, containing emotion, and succeeding with women.” This stereotype reinforces the assumption that men and boys should always be in control, and that talking about one’s feelings is a sign of weakness.

The Jock
is always willing to “compromise his own long-term health; he must fight other men when necessary; he must avoid being soft; and he must be aggressive.” By demonstrating his power and strength, the jock wins the approval of other men and the adoration of women.

The Joker
is a very popular character with boys, perhaps because laughter is part of their own “mask of masculinity.” A potentially negative consequence of this stereotype is the assumption that boys and men should not be serious or emotional. However, reseearchers have also argued that humorous roles can be used to expand definitions of masculinity.

The Big Shot
is defined by his professional status. He is the “epitome of success, embodying the characteristics and acquiring the possessions that society deems valuable.” This stereotype suggests that a real man must be economically powerful and socially successful.

The Action Hero is “strong, but not necessarily silent. He is often angry. Above all, he is aggressive in the extreme and, increasingly over the past several decades, he engages in violent behavior.”

The Sexpot/Bimbo is the sexualized “girl.” Flirty, giggly and jiggly, this stereotype is young, usually blonde, and non-threatening.

The Man Eater is the sexually aggressive female. She has a harder edge than the sexpot and is usually a bit older. Glamorous rather than pretty, she gets what she wants from men by using her sexuality.

The Rebel asserts her independence by being a bit wild, in a cute and sexy way. Unlike her male counterpart, the action hero, female rebels are not portrayed as being angry or aggressive. Instead, they achieve liberation through drinking, smoking and partying.

The Prize
is that “perfect woman” who can be yours if you consume the right beverage. Pretty, but not giggly, the prize smiles provocatively or remains emotionally aloof. This type of woman is more commonly portrayed in TV commercials in which there is time to develop a plot to explain how she is “won.”

The Party Girl
is stylish, sexy, glamorous and the “life of the party.” Fun loving and confident, she is the centre of attention.

After viewing a vast array of alcohols in advertising, I noticed one missing from the crowd:  wine.  Which caused me to look back and realize that, throughout my life, I cannot recall one specific wine advertisement.  Yet wine takes up several aisles in supermarkets and proves popular with the public.  With such a strong following, why do wines not take advantage of advertising?

Though wine is not advertised directly in advertisements, I saw its appearance throughout magazines and television.  What I observed is that wine is usually associated with romance, appearing as the beverage when couples drink together.

Couples drinking wine with dinner

Couples drinking wine together at dinner. Article in Cosmopolitan April 2010.

Wine Cooler ad

Wine Cooler advertised for "Bridal Registry" in Cosmopolitan April 2010. This affirms wine being popular with couples (wedding gift) and with females specifically (featured in a women's magazine).

Wine seems to be more accepted among the female population.  However, in media, it is also featured with high-brow males.  A prime example is in the popular show Frasier.

Tina Fey pictured holding a bottle of wine

Article in Esquire April 2010 pictures Tina Fey with a bottle of wine, showing how it is a popular drink with females.

Frasier, his brother Niles, and men are part of “The Corkmasters”, a wine club.  Additionally, Frasier plans to host a radio show about wine to fellow enthusiasts.  Shown in the first 3:30 minutes.

However, after a long search, I was able to find a wine advertisement:

Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay ad: Esquire April 2010

Surprisingly, the ad was featured in Esquire, a men’s magazine.  However, like Frasier, the ad seems to target a more high-brow male audience.  The ad features a lot of text and information, categorizing it as one of “The Rationalistic Image” which “is reflected both by practitioners of reason-why advertising and by rationalistic academic psychology…” (Leiss,Kline, Jhally, Botterill 151-55).  Hence, the consumer is more knowledgeable and, therefore, more sophisticated.

Hence, wine proves to be popular among both genders and often brings them together, especially in romantic situations.  However, when the gender markets are separated, a divide surfaces.  Wine is more accepted among females, where a woman can drink wine at any occasion and even by herself (as seen in the image with Tina Fey).  Males that enjoy wine, though, must be of a higher social-status and better-educated.  This could have a positive connotation, where these refined men are respected.  However, negativity may also occur; well-mannered men tend to be well-groomed and, therefore, effeminate.  Furthermore, this may be enhanced by their drinking of wine, a popular women’s drink.


Dos Equis and their campaign of  “the most interesting man in the world”

Dos Equis is not only selling their product of beer, but they are also selling a lifestyle.

According to market research by Millward Brown, the TV ad is in the top five percent of most enjoyable ads in U.S. research history, posturing the Most Interesting Man to become pop culture’s next brand-recognized advertising icon. The ad is targeted at a specific audience, adult men who live wild, interesting lives.

The campaign has become popular on many levels, mainly class and sophistication. It makes viewers believe that if they drink  Dos Equis, they too will be interesting.

I even spotted within my own group of friends a reference to the ad.

a direct reference to the Dos Equis ads

As seen in the comments that follow, others recognize the reference of the ad and respond.


Alcohol sponsorship occurs when alcohol companies financially support local events such as concerts, community festivals, or sporting events in exchange for promotions and advertisements. This oftentimes involves distribution of merchandise with the sponsor’s logo, turning event-goers into walking advertisements. However, it can function in other ways, such as advertisements being screened at the event. On a bigger scale, the name of the event may even be associated with the company. Alcohol sponsorships are highly regulated, often compared to the regulation of tobacco advertisements.  They are banned entirely in several countries, and many communities have passed ordinances restricting this type of activity, but this issue is more political and thus irrelevant to our study.

We will examine how the selection of events to sponsor reflects large alcohol companies’ gender targeting patterns, and how receptive different groups are to this type of advertising.

The overwhelming majority of alcohol-sponsored events are sports-related, and even more are specific to beer. Distilled spirits must be accompanied with a “drink responsibly” disclaimer, and though this may attribute somewhat to beer’s prevalence in this area, it is more likely that advertising companies are exploiting male gender stereotypes. Still, certain “girly” liquors have found ways to sponsor more artistically-centered events.

Widespread campaigns meant to appeal to men:

-Anheuser-Busch (more well known for their Budweiser branch) sponsoring Nascar events

-Heineken is well know for sponsoring the UEFA (Union of European Football Associations)

-Coors Brewing company sponsors a number of leagues including NFL and NASCAR as well as a handful of teams: Colorado Avalanche, Detroit Red Wings , Phoenix Coyotes, hockey teams in Canada and Colorado Rockies baseball team.

-dos equis is the official beer sponsor of the Breeder’s cup

Widespread campaigns meant to appeal to women:

-Absolut vodka is known for sponsoring art competitions which feature winning designs on limited-edition bottles, often in fruity or “feminine” flavors

-Skyy Vodka sponsored the 2001 Sundance Film Festival

–Smirnoff owns the naming rights to the Smirnoff Music Centre, a concert ampitheater located in Dallas Texas


Works Cited

“Alcohol Industry: Free Your Festivals.” The Marin Institute. 2006. Web. 2 May 2010. <http://www.marininstitute.org/fyf/index.htm&gt;.

Danylchuk, Karen E., and Eric MacIntosh. “Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverage Sponsorship of Sporting Events: The Link to the Obesity Issue.” B-Net. 2009. Web. 2 May 2010. <http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_7740/is_200906/ai_n32331748/&gt;.

http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/52183/dos-equis-is-official-beer-sponsor-of-cup.&#8221; Blood Horse. 19 Aug. 2009. Web. 2 May 2010. <http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/52183/dos-equis-is-official-beer-sponsor-of-cup&gt;.

Ryan, D. “Absolut Sponsorship Boosts Vancouver Arts Scene.” Vancouver Sun. 10 Nov. 2009. Web. 2 May 2010. <www.vancouversun.com>.

As aforementioned in the post regarding the articles in the April 2010 issues of Esquire and Cosmopolitan magazines, fruity drinks correlate to a female audience while bitter drinks and beer are catered to men.  This trend is also apparent throughout the advertisements in said magazines, as well as others.

The most frequent alcohol ad to appear in women’s magazines were for “fruity” hard liquor drinks.

SKYY Vodka "Pineapple" Ad

Glamour May 2010

Cosmopolitan April 2010

As stated by Killing Us Softly 3 (see previous post) women are constantly portrayed as thin in advertisements.  It is likely that this causes the female audience, bombarded with these images, to be diet-crazy.  Hence, many women may follow a diet full of vegetables and fruit aka: “healthy foods”.

This showcases semiotics where the  the ads’ captions about being “all natural” or a “mix of berries” serve as the “signifier” and the “signified” are the alcoholic drinks themselves. The two entities together send the faux message of a “healthy drink” (Leiss, Kline, Jhally, Botterill 164-65).  This idea of “health” is further enhanced by the “Go Natural” caption on the SKYY ad and the text included in the Absolut advertisement.

Caption under Absolut Vodka "Berry Acai" Ad

Blueberries and pomegranates are veteran “super foods”, found on almost every list, and the “acai” berry is the newest addition.  To the consumer, this drink seems to provide a “triple threat” of “super-healthy” food and qualities.  However, this is not an ingredients list, but merely what flavors the alcohol contains.  Ironically, this flavor is obtained through sugary syrups and chemicals… the opposite of “healthy”.

Hard liquors are also advertised to men:

Patron Ad

Maxim May 2010

Jose Cuervo Tequila Ad

Esquire April 2010

Article about Whiskey

GQ May 2010

However, unlike with the females, most of the liquors advertised to men do not contain additional flavors but remain as the pure liquor.  The “fruity drink” ads that do appear either show sexual images of women or ideas of toughness, as the previous post explains.

As a college student, I also observe men relate thirty drinks as “weak” and regular hard liquors as a way to prove “toughness”.  This, too, relates to the video Tough Guise, discussed in the previous post.  I also view this incident as a way to portray men as “keeping it simple”, which was stated in the Esquire article explaining their love for beer.

Segment from Esquire article "Things to Do with Beer"

Esquire April 2010 article explains men being highly esteemed the male population. Also, men do not like "silliness" such as fruits added to their beer, and prefer to "be simle, ungimicky".

However, some beer ads seem catered to women:

Select 55 Ad

Select 55 ad in Cosmopolitan April 2010

As with the fruity drinks, this beer ad serves the “diet-crazed” woman, guaranteeing that this beer is low in calories and therefore healthy/safe to drink.

Overall, advertising gears sweet, fruity, and seemingly-healthy drinks towards women, whereas present simple and strong or bitter beverages towards men.


Currently in my Media Studies class we are learning about stereotypes in the media.  For our screening last week, we were presented two documentaries on this issue: Killing Us Softly 3 (imdb) and Tough Guise (imdb).  I thought I could apply some of the ideas presented in these documentaries to our discussion on how genders are presented in advertising, specifically of alcohol.

Killing Us Softly 3 focuses on the portrayal of women in advertising. Lecturer Jean Kilbourne begins by explaining the prominence of advertising, something we have discussed heavily in class, and its influence on the consumer culture.  She primarily speaks of how advertising illustrates women with unrealistic ideals of beauty, forcing females to consume in products in order to achieve beauty and, therefore, happiness.  “…from the economic necesity to create demand…arose advertising’s power to induce false needs in people” (Leiss, Kline, Jhally, Botterill 83).  Additionally, she describes how, in ads, women are seen as “objects”- sometimes literally.

At first, I figured by watching this video, I would see how this movie connects to the advertising in women’s magazines.  However, it seems more fitting for the advertisement in men’s magazines, especially the latter.  And it makes sense: females that read women’s magazines are looking for ways to improve themselves, and therefore don’t want to see themselves as inferior “objects”.  However, these images of submissive women usually display sexual undertones, and hence appeal to a male audience.

SKYY Infusions "Cherry" Ad

Maxim May 2010: Issue 149

Kilbourne references alcohol advertisements specifically during the film, as well, with other ads.

Michelobe Girl as Bottle

Further examples can be found here.

Tough Guise serves as a foil to Killing Us Softly 3 in that it discusses the male stereotypes in advertising.  Narrator Jackson Katz explains how men are portrayed as dominant, strong, powerful, and sometimes violent characters in media.  Though this may be true in movies and music, it is rare in advertising, for as aforementioned advertising usually tried to sell “happiness”, such as follows:

Heineken ad

Heineken ad illustrates fun and friendship in Enquire April 2010 Issue

However, one advertisement for Bacardi found in a male magazine did display violent traits:

Bacardi "Torched Cherry" Ad

Bacardi Ad in Enquire April 2010 Issue

Though the ad promotes a “fruity drink”, something predominately geared towards females, it showcases a dangerous “thorny bush”, hence a challenge for men to conquer.

Hence, controversies dealing with advertising’s stereotypes towards different genders can be supported by advertisements for alcohol.


After picking up the April issues of Cosmopolitan and Esquire, we searched for the differences in alcohol advertisements between the two magazines. Each geared toward a specific gender audience, we noticed the similarities and differences in the advertisements in each magazine. For example Cosmopolitan offered drink recipes for its readers that all involved fruit. But in the Esquire issue, there is a similar article about mixed drinks, but with beer.


Esquire, April 2010

Cosmpolitan, 2010

Arguably the most socially oriented product with one of the largest and most diverse consumer bases present today, alcoholic beverages undoubtedly present a unique challenge to advertisers. Because it is a highly lucrative market with fierce competition and resounding social impacts, advertisers have adapted a number of cognitive and aesthetic strategies to appeal to different sectors of the consumer base. We chose to study these different approaches as they adhere to gender divisions. It takes minimal attention to recognize the obvious marketing disparities in this component, yet there is an intriguing amount of depth into which this study can be delved. We want to know why and to what extent these tactics are effective, as well as how evident the spillover impacts are both socially and commercially. As young members of a new emerging technology-dependent generation, we are interested in this subject and the way it will affect our future relationships, careers, and stereotypes. Gender inequality is a prominent driving force in business, yet it is rarely directly addressed by the advertising agencies which propel it. We want to bring light to the inequalities inherent in this industry, and address their overall desirability and morality. We will examine the prevalence of these advertisements across a variety of media and analyze both its usefulness and potential corruptive forces on culture. Through investigating advertisements in television, print, web communities, and company sponsorships both contemporary and vintage, we will examine this subject’s historical significance and current relevancy.