Amanda Atkinson

Dr Amanda Marie Atkinson a Senior Researcher within the Public Health Institute at Liverpool John Moores University, with expertise in the gendered nature of substance use, drinking cultures, media representations of drug and alcohol use and the influence of the media and marketing. She specialises in qualitative methods and uses creative/artistic methods to promote her research findings.

‘We’re in this together’: A content analysis of marketing by alcohol brands on Facebook and Instagram during the first UK Lockdown, 2020

Aims: COVID-19 restrictions created an unprecedented situation for the alcohol industry, with the availability and supply of alcohol being restricted, and the social context of alcohol use transformed. This paper presents findings of a study exploring how alcohol corporations adapted their brand marketing on Facebook and Instagram during the first UK lockdown.

Methods: Content analysis of alcohol marketing posts (N=894) by 18 alcohol brands on Facebook and Instagram during the first UK lockdown (17th March- 4th July 2020). Comments (N=3908) left on posts advertising brand COVID-19 Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives were thematically analysed.

Findings: Brand marketing adapted to the changing social, economic and health context of COVID-19. Changes to the availability and sale of alcohol were evident; stockpiling and online sales were encouraged, and delivery services promoted. Encouragement of home drinking was intensified. A discourse of ‘togetherness’ underpinned the promotion of virtual drinking interactions and consumers were encouraged to ‘do their bit’ by ‘staying at home’, and consuming alcohol. Alcohol producers presented themselves as private partners to a primarily public sector response, through innovative CSR initiatives. Analysis of online comments on CSR posts found that consumers interpreted these as ethical actions, and that they reinforced positive brand image and loyalty among existing and new consumers.

Conclusion: Alcohol corporations are highly resilient in times of crises. The brands quickly adapted their marketing, and developed CSR initiatives, in response to the pandemic. Future research is required to examine whether these strategies are maintained post-pandemic.
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