Navigating the complex laws of alcohol advertising

–Adam Sand, General Counsel

The marketing of alcoholic beverages and products can be extremely complicated. Not only must brands confirm they are marketing to consumers that are of age, but they also have to navigate different state laws and requirements.  Today, in the US, each state (and even individual counties within the states) have specific laws regulating the marketing, sale, and shipping of alcohol to its residents.

These laws date back to the period of after the end of Prohibition in 1933, when federal and state laws created a three-tiered system for manufacturing, distribution, and sales of alcohol.  First, manufacturing: licensed producers are the only entities who may make wine, beer, and spirits. These licensed producers may then only sell alcohol products to licensed distributors, and then these licensed producers must only sell these products to licensed retailers. After this, licensed retailers may then sell alcoholic products to consumers.  This system may seem convoluted today, but at the time, politicians wanted to ensure each portion of the alcohol industry acted entirely independently.  This system gave local politicians the ability to grant licenses only to producers, distributors, and sellers they deemed “fit”.

The complicated nature of these various laws can cause many companies to give up and avoid marketing alcohol altogether. However, location-based technology enabled by mobile now solves many of these challenges, and can achieve great results for marketers of alcohol.  These solutions can deliver location-specific messages and offers, by targeting consumers who live in the appropriate states and counties that allow consumers to receive incentives for scanning or buying alcohol.  To understand how complex this is, let’s look at a couple of examples:

  1. In Pennsylvania, the relevant law states “it shall be unlawful … for any licensee … to offer or give to trade or consumer buyers any prize, premium, gift or other inducement to purchase liquor or malt or brewed beverages […].”
  2. In Georgia, the relevant law states that “no Manufacturer, Producer, Shipper, Importer, Broker, or Wholesaler, nor their employees, agents, Representatives, or anyone acting on their behalf, shall directly or indirectly […] Give or offer to give […] things of value in connection with the sale of Alcoholic Beverages […and…] cooperative advertising and incentive programs shall not be deemed to constitute a [prohibited] partnership agreement.”

At Shopkick, it is our priority to understand these complex and varied laws so we may offer incentives to our consumers based on where they live, what stores they visit, and what type and brand of alcohol they purchase. Shopkick customizes each marketing program to offer incentives, specifically “kicks,” for scans of alcohol in one state and kicks for purchases in another.  So, although a consumer may live in a state where we may advertise and offer kicks for scanning an alcoholic product, we may not be able to offer kicks for purchasing an alcoholic product, or vice versa. This specialization allows Shopkick to quickly set up customized marketing campaigns for alcohol (and other products) even in the face of the complex marketing laws.

We work with many wine and spirits manufacturers across the country to navigate these laws, and have seen great results in rewarding consumers for engaging with their brands and products both online and in-stores.

Contact us to learn more about how Shopkick alcohol programs work.