Bottling Misery: Corporate Influence on the Proliferation of Alcoholism

by | Dec 19, 2023 | Corporate power | 0 comments

Article by William Papworth

Photo by Eeshan Garg on Unsplash


In just the first 9 months of 2023, the recorded revenue from the global alcoholic drink market had amounted to an all-time high of over $1.61 trillion dollars, making alcoholic beverages the eighth most profitable sector out of 94 global industries [1].

For centuries, the consumption of alcohol has been an intrinsic part of human tradition and a huge aspect of billions of people’s everyday lives. However, in our contemporary society, the connection between corporate influence and the consumption of alcohol has drastically altered. The commodification of nearly every aspect of drinking has made ‘Big Alcohol’s’ brands, imagery and slogans ubiquitous. ‘Alcohol is everywhere, all the time’ [2]. Thus, the proliferation of alcoholism has become an unfortunate, but foreseen, consequence deeply imprinted into societies and cultures across the globe.


The Marketing Machinery

The production and distribution of alcoholic beverages coincide with punctiliously crafted marketing efforts and strategies to promote the consumption of their products. We live in ‘a global economy that focuses relentlessly on profit’ [3], and whilst on a surface level this process isn’t harmful, the appeal generated for these beverages is often heightened through sophisticated advert campaigns that highlight a desirable and glamorous lifestyle associated with drinking, that has led to alcoholism being a far more casually documented issue than it actually is. The subtle promises of a constant good and social time that derive from these adverts glamorise alcohol consumption, therefore making it an innate part of celebrations, social events, and everyday life.

The development of social media and television commercials has led to the omnipresence of alcohol-related content within nearly all aspects of society. The constant aura of sociability and supposed pleasure that corporate entities perpetuate through their advertisements simply present drinking as an indispensable aspect towards a fulfilling lifestyle. In 2017, Heineken’s ‘Open your World’ advert was a huge success for the company, exploring how the presence of beer in a conversation can bring people much closer even when they have drastically opposing views on tentative subjects. During the 12 weeks after the ad campaign was launched, Heineken saw a 7.3% increase in beer sales in the UK alone [4]. On a corporate level, this profiteering is majorly victorious, however in terms of the proliferation of alcoholism it simply furthers these notions:

  1. ‘Big Alcohol’ commandeers people’s social experiences to attach them to their beverages
  2. ‘Big Alcohol’ slyly replaces human capacity for socialisation to sell their products
  3. ‘Big Alcohol’ pushes a harmful alcohol norm into nearly all aspects of human life

The alcohol industry, through the casualisation of alcohol consumption, is able to convince people that the Heineken product is the reason for their beneficial and positive experiences, and not their own compassion and ability to interact with others around them.


Addressing corporate influence, normalisation and impacts on the vulnerable

Joel Bakan wrote that ‘Corporations now govern society’ [5], and in the context of the alcohol industry, such a concept is scarily transparent. Their influence over what ‘normal’ drinking behaviour constitutes has been highly dramatised due to its consumption in popular forms of media and film that ‘have been shown to increase contemporaneous drinking’ [6]. Moreover, corporations often depict binge drinking to be a symbol of success or freedom which further contributes to the ongoing normalisation of excessive alcohol consumption.

It is also indispensable to understand that the influence corporations have isn’t equivalent across the vast majority of social and economic demographics. Vulnerable people: predominantly those affected by poverty, a lack of education or mental health issues are often far more susceptible to facing alcoholism. Studies such as Hofmann’s 1992 ‘Types of Alcoholics’ [7] identify how the alcohol industry purposefully targets demographics like this through tailored and aggressive marketing techniques, simply furthering the rife issue of alcoholism across the globe.



Globally, over 280 million men and women suffer from alcoholism [8], making it one of the biggest public health emergencies that the alcohol industry fuels with its ‘bottled misery’ year in and year out. The relationship between the proliferation of alcoholism and corporate influence over the alcohol industry is a multifaceted and complex issue our current societies face. Although corporations greatly benefit from the sale of their alcoholic products and many millions of people manage to drink safely, their marketing practices and rather ruthless ethical beliefs far too often contribute to the excessive consumption and addiction of alcohol that spirals into societal problems, whether they’re visible or not. 

Recognising this influence is a crucial facet when aiming to develop comprehensive strategies and policies that help mitigate the impact of alcoholism on society as a whole and individuals themselves.













Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *