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Happy Hour is Back! Latest Advertising Performance of the Alcoholic Spirits Category in 2021

June 29, 2021

At long last, in-person happy hour is officially back for most Americans, and we couldn’t be more thrilled. With most cities and states back to pre-COVID accessibility, people are ready and eager to leave the Zoom meetings and social-distanced drive-by’s behind and celebrate with friends and loved ones once again.

With the summer season in full swing, many brands are picking up on the vibes of consumers and using their advertising to encourage folks to get back out there with their favorite alcoholic spirits. Using our industry-leading in-market measurement platform Phoenix Brand Effect, we took a look at the recent advertising of popular alcoholic spirit brands to see which are resonating with consumers and which are getting left on the bar.


From a general standpoint, one trend that we observed from this batch of advertising was that more than half of the ads featured their products being used to create a signature cocktail (or, in the case of Baileys Irish Cream, dessert). This trend might imply that although bars and restaurants are almost entirely opened back up, many consumers still opt to gather at home and try their hands at mixing up cocktails themselves.

In terms of the ads themselves, despite not having the top score in either Ad Memorability or Branding, Proper No. Twelve’s “Proper Heroes” is the winner in terms of overall breakthrough. The Irish whiskey brand’s ad was consistent across both metrics and was probably bolstered by the company’s founder, MMA Fighter Conor McGregor, who is the main spokesperson in the ad itself. The ad also mentioned the brand’s commitment to donate up to $1 million per year to first responders, which likely resonated with many viewers.

The Baileys Irish Cream “Forgetting Dessert” ad had us craving something sweet and running to the store with their strong branding. Due in part to the ad’s overall branding and unmistakable use of the product itself, it was the top performer in terms of Brand Linkage. However, the ad’s lackluster scores for general recall cost it the top slot for overall breakthrough.

Another strong performer in general recall was Absolut Vodka’s “Delicious Drinks, Moments to Remember” ad, depicting a group of friends making cocktails in the park. While their branding was considerably low (well below the norm for the category), their Ad Memorability scores effectively put them at the top of the metric.

Bacardi’s “Conga” ad falls at the back of the lineup with below-norm scores in both Ad Memorability and Brand Linkage. Featuring a dance montage-style format and few brand cues to tie back to the subject of the ad itself, their ad, unfortunately, did not hit the notes with consumers that they likely intended.

Interested in gaining additional insights into the why’s behind the performance of these ads or how these campaigns performed at the brand level? Drop us a line!



Phoenix Brand Effect is the gold standard for in-market performance and can provide real-world, real-time, in-flight ad measurement to help you establish a baseline for future campaigns. Looking to bridge the gap between pre-market creative development and in-market tracking? Our newly-developed AdPi-Brand Effect Platform offers clients a seamless solution to maximize ad performance using creative diagnostics (AdPi®) to generate forward-looking estimates to understand your creative’s full in-market performance potential (Brand Effect).

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