Hard seltzer sales triple for Super Bowl watch parties, challenging beer

By Beth Newhart

- Last updated on GMT

76% of Americans celebrating the Super Bowl plan to drink beer while they watch. Pic: ©GettyImages/DavidPrahl
76% of Americans celebrating the Super Bowl plan to drink beer while they watch. Pic: ©GettyImages/DavidPrahl

Related tags Beer Wine Super bowl Alcohol consumption

Beer dominates the Super Bowl watch party, but wine, hard seltzer and spirits have started creeping into the game day spread. New Nielsen data suggests that an increase in female football fans is shifting demographics, reflected in alcohol choice for the number one sports event in the US.

Super Bowl Sunday hits the US this weekend, a much-anticipated annual event when Americans indulge in football, expensive advertising, halftime concerts, snacks and, of course, alcohol. The Super Bowl has evolved beyond a simple football game into what many people consider a holiday and an excuse to throw parties with friends and family, even without an attachment to the teams playing.

Beer faces challenges

Alcohol is a major part of the day, with beer often the most popular choice for fans. It is cheaper and easier to buy in bulk for parties, and beer’s long history with sporting events is unmatched.

Mainstream domestic brands like Budweiser, Bud Light, Miller Lite and Heineken are the most popular options, but consumers indulge in their favorite craft brews as well. Nielsen reported that more than $166m worth of craft beer was consumed on Super Bowl Sunday 2017.

According to new reports from Nielsen, “wine and spirits both generate nearly half a billion dollars in sales, each, in the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl,”​ and “59% of Super Bowl fans said they prefer to drink wine, while 55% prefer beer and 49% prefer spirits.”

The Beer Institute, a Washington DC-based trade association, found in a recent survey that 76% of Americans celebrating the Super Bowl this year plan to drink beer while they watch. Of those drinking beer, 78% said it was an important part of the Super Bowl experience, and half said beer was very important to their Super Bowl celebration.

Jim McGreevy, president and CEO of the Beer Institute, said “Across the country, men and women will take a few hours this Sunday to enjoy good friends, good food, good football, and--of course--good beer.”

“Our nation’s more than 5,600 brewers and beer importers are proud to be part of Super Bowl Sunday, and they have poured their talent and dedication into making sure each celebrant has the right beer for Sunday’s game and future occasions throughout the year.”

Women driving alternate growth

A changing landscape is thanks in part to the female football fanbase. According to Nielsen, female Super Bowl viewership between 2014-2018 maintained at about 46%-47%. Women also control $4.3 trillion (73%) of US spending, so the adult beverage industry is shifting from male-dominated marketing to more gender-balanced advertising.

Women are more drawn to wine, spirits and hard seltzer than men, leading to a rise in their Super Bowl consumption. Sales of the low-calorie flavored malt beverage (FMB) have more than tripled since Super Bowl 2016, rising from 0.3% to 1.3% in 2018.

Overall, women are 21% more likely to drink hard cider most often compared to other adult beverages. The juicy/hazy style of New England IPAs also has a place in football, driven by female preference (63%) more than male (60%).

Nielsen reports that 11% of female football fans opt for Pinot Grigio, and 38% choose beer as their clear game day favorite. Online wine sales reached $716,792 on Super Bowl Sunday in 2017, but saw a 46% increase to $1,047,993 on Super Bowl Sunday 2018.

“Some Super Bowl staples will last forever: count beer, wings and chips among them. But it’s a much more crowded space than it used to be, and marketers need to take note,”​ Nielsen said.

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