Have you ever walked into a fine dining steakhouse and felt obligated to drink a glass of wine? Because I have, which was also the first time I had ever drank wine. During important dates and events, people often turn to alcohol to celebrate their special moment. The choice of which alcohol one consumes during an event also could be affected by which type of event they are attending. For example, if I were to go to a fine dining restaurant to celebrate a birthday party, alcohol such as wine would be served opposed to hard liquor. As certain types of wine would be perfectly paired with certain types of food (eg. such as dark meat is known to pair well with red wine). As being in such an environment, wouldn’t be suitable to be loud or rowdy. Whereas if I was watching a Super Bowl game, beer would be an essential. The question arises of how do alcohol companies, such as Budweiser, brand and create these stereotypes that determine what type of alcohol people should drink during certain events? Moreover, does drinking certain type of alcohol represent forms of masculinity?
In one of the world’s biggest sporting event such as the Super Bowl, commercials such as Budweiser spend tremendous amount of money in order to hold exclusive beer advertising rights almost every year. Additionally, investing up to $15 million on creating Super Bowl advertisements that only last a minute long. Budweiser commercials and campaigns have been part of the super bowl starting 1984, and has grown to be a tradition for Budweiser to have a special spot in the Super Bowl. As Budweiser had gained significant value towards their brand, in result of being part of the Super Bowl.
Photo from Dave&Buster’s
It is interesting to see how social norms conform to these branding practices. During sport events, the most popular way to watch the event is to either- go to the bar with friends or watch the event at home with their friends. Consistently, the choice of alcohol people choose to pair with the typical pub food is beer. This ritual-like practice is seen to play out in beer advertisements. Beer commercials mostly consist of men, or is occasionally focused on a male. Surveys has shown that 73% of the general public agrees that alcohol advertisements make a huge influence and contributor in people’s drinking habits (Grube&Wallack, 1994, pg.1). As many liquor industries and commercials promote drinking beer as having a masculine identities, I believe this creates the same impact on viewers. How the stereotype of drinking beer became a masculine trait solely due to the branding of beer commercials and the significant relationship between alcohol advertisements and drinking beliefs (Grube&Wallack, 1994, pg.1).
An example would be the “Bud Light Super Bowl Commercial 2018”, which features the “Bud Knight”. The commercial takes place in the medieval times, and focuses on the Bud Knight and his masculinity in this clip. His entrance is grand as the camera shoots the scene from under him, making him appear mighty visually. Additionally, the lights and orchestra music help enhance his grand entrance. All of the soldiers excitedly thinks their masculine saviour has arrived, however he passes them to walk straight into the store “ICE BEER SNACKS”. Many connotations are embedded in the scene as he walks into the convenience store, as viewers are able to see that beer is extremely important to the Bud Knight. It suggests that the beer defines him, and makes him the mighty warrior he is. As the other soldiers find it shocking as they watched the Bud Knight walk into the convenience store, and saying “Time to do what might be done”. This leaves the viewers curious of what he might do or bring out of the store, however the Bud Knight walks out with cans of beer. The commercial portrays the Bud Knight as a heroic figure for saving the day, but with the help of his favourite choice of alcohol drink.
It might be hard to dissect an advertisement’s subliminal message immediately, however upon further analysis advertisements always have a reason for everything they show. Like the advertisement of the Bud Knight, a medieval themed storyline and soldiers fighting in a war seems quite irrelevant to the Super Bowl. Although the advertisement does not directly promote the brand Budweiser, many connotations are embedded into the story that suggests the ‘masculinity effect’ of the product. Bud Knight is positioned as the “hero” of the story as he saves the day, he holds a case of Budweiser beer while doing so. This suggests his ability to defeat the enemy was due to drinking Budweiser beer, showing the phenomenal masculinity effect of the beer. Budweiser is the most heavily advertised beverage in the United States, as it is their main target audience being that the United States is known for their sports teams. Resulting the story of the advertisement to incorporate American mass culture ideologies.
“American mass culture idealized the man- of- action hero” (Holt&Thompson, 2004). The Man- of- Action Hero Model is the ideology where of the concept “hero” originated. It suggests that heroes consist of two characteristics: breadwinning and rebellion (Holt&Thompson, 2004). A “heroic men” is expected to have a dominant figure individual, they are also expected to have a dominant figure in the family which is the breadwinner (Holt&Thompson, 2004). Moreover, maintaining a rebellious spirit in order to maintain autonomy (Holt&Thompson, 2004). The ability of a hero entails a man to survive and conquer in a society through courage, physical skills and cunning behaviour in society (Holt&Thompson, 2004). A family man takes pride in the act of watching Super Bowl with his friends as it is his “rebellion spirit”. The act of watching Super Bowl and drinking Budweiser enforces his own masculinity within his household.
In Budweiser commercials, masculine figures and activities are always the main attention of the story. Despite some commercials having stories that aren’t directly relevant to masculinity, the end of the commercials always contain a twist. An example would be the “Budweiser A Dream Deliver” commercial. The story of the commercial is about a story of an army veteran’s daughter, Hayley Grace Williams. Hayley, is currently a student and is facing financial difficulties paying for school as her father has injuries and isn’t able to work to provide an income. The commercial ends with an actor from Budweiser surprising Hayley at their front door and gifting her getting a scholarship from school and covering for school expenses for all of next year. Due to her dad’s accomplishments, he is rewarded for life with a “hero” status from his bold decision to fight and sacrifice for his country. This advertisement aims to pull the heartstrings of the viewers with this feel-good commercial. It reinforces the image of the company, Budweiser is seen as a company that contributes back to society, putting them in a positive light.
How do advertisements influence viewers in conforming into these stereotype?
“Messages are most persuasive sales are directed to the potential buys on a particular product of service at a certain cost anyway” (Aqsa& Kartini, 2015)
The field of marketing and branding is an important aspect in business. Even with beer companies, there are many other competing brands. It is vital for a company to distinguish themselves from other competing brands. In my perspective, there are two aspects are important when it comes to standing out,- one would be the actual taste of the beer and secondly their branding techniques.
The goal of branding is to enhance or create an image of the product to a targeted audience. Individuals that consume the product are also consuming the branded image of the product (Aqsa& Kartini, 2015). Hence, individuals consumer products that either they can identify or relate with (or portray as themselves to do so). Advertisements often include forms of communication to express the message of the brand, leaving a positive and ideal image for the consumers (Aqsa& Kartini, 2015). A successful advertisement generates emotions and judgments to the viewers which should affect consumers attitudes towards the brand or product (Aqsa& Kartini, 2015). In Budweiser commercials, connotations are used to convey the message of masculinity through coding signs of American male beer drinkers . Many of the signs and codes that American male are able to identify, as it is their targeted audience. Moreover suggests that people that consume the product are also consuming the masculine “heroic” identity. Similar to many of Photo Credit the characteristics athletes are seen to have, many expectations are present for athletes to pass certain fitness test in order to become an athlete. Often measuring athlete’s physical ability of have strength, and or accuracy.
The response viewers are intended to have while watching the advertisements is for them to become like the idealistic character or the “hero” in the advertisement, through consuming the product. The concept Foucault argues about docile bodies, is that people follow dominant ways that society teaches us through discipline and self control (Forsyth& Gile, 2012). Within consumer culture, the idea of body maintenance and masculinity is embedded in many advertisements, as it’s the ideology of what a “good citizen” should do (Featherstone, 1982). As the body is a “self-vehicle of pleasure and self-expression”, there is constant need of improvement as people are being constantly surveilled by each other (Featherstone, 1982). Moreover by consuming certain products also means that they are consuming the brand image (Park, Maclnnis& Park, 1986, pg.135) As brand images are created towards their intended target audience, understanding the consumers interest and ideologies are vital (Whan Park 135).
Beer Brands + Sports = Beer League
Photo Credit Sports Illustrated
Oppose from traditional forms of advertisements on television, beer brands take on other approaches of advertisements such as“Beer League”. Beer League are sport organizations that are funded by beer corporation such as pubs or bars. Beer corporations fund for sport team’s expenses, in exchange providing them a form of advertisement by drinking or setting next to a cooler of beer before the game. The game and athlete’s ability to play the sport isn’t important, in fact the main focus is advertisements for the brand.
These are the many ways beer companies use to brand their product towards masculinity and sports. Through traditional advertisements seen on TV or advertisements through sponsorships such as beer league. As consumers related these connotations of masculinity towards consuming the product, it has become a tradition for people to drink beer while watching mega or sport events.
Ad Age. (2017). Super Bowl LII Complete Ad Chart: WHO’S BUYING ADS IN THE BIG GAME. Retrieved from http://adage.com/article/special-report-super-bowl/2018-super-bowl-lii-ad-chart-who-buying-what/311557/
Aqsa, M., & Kartini, D. (2015). The Influence of Online Advertisement on Consumer Attitudes(Vol. 4, Issue 4). International Journal of Scientific & Technology Research.
Eads, L. (2015). BEER STILL ‘PERCEIVED AS A MAN’S DRINK’. Retrieved from https://www.thedrinksbusiness.com/2015/10/beer-still-perceived-as-a-mans-drink/
Featherstone, M. (1982). The Body in Consumer Culture. Theory Culture & Society.
Forsyth, J, & Giles, A. (2012). The Aboriginal Peoples and Sport in Canada. Historical Foundations and Contemporary Issues.
Grube, J., & Wallack, L. (1994). Television Beer Advertising and Drinking Knowledge, Beliefs and Intentions among Schoolchildren.
Holt, D. B., & Thompson, C. J. (2004). Journal of Consumer Research: Man-of-Action Heroes: The Pursuit of Heroic Masculinity in Everyday Consumption(Vol. 31, Issue 1).
Long, J. (n.d.). The Budweiser Boys: How has Budweiser coded the American Male beer drinker? Retrieved from https://jamiethomaslong.wordpress.com/writing-2/public-relations/the-budweiser-boys-how-has-budweiser-coded-the-american-male-beer-drinker/
Messner. M., & Montez de Oca, J. (2005). The Male Consumer as Loser: Beer and Liquor Ads in Mega Sports Media Events .
Park, W., Jaworski, B., Maclnnis, D. (1986). Journal of Marketing: Strategic Brand Concept-Image Management(Vol. 50, Ser. 4).
Reid, R. (2017). Why do we act like joining the army automatically makes you a hero? Retrieved from http://metro.co.uk/2017/04/11/why-do-we-act-like-joining-the-army-automatically-makes-you-a-hero-6567673/
Sloop, J. M. (2012). Critical Studies in Media Communications .