Beer and Television: Perfectly Tuned In

Early beer advertising icons: Utica Club’s Schultz and Dooley and Black Label’s Mabel

Written by Carl H. Miller

“Beer makers have been searching for the perfect beer commercial nearly since television exploded onto the American scene in the late 1940s. In those pioneer days, nobody–not the advertisers, not the ad agencies, not the TV stations–knew exactly what made for a good commercial. Indeed, the earliest beer commercials consisted of everything from live demonstrations of how to cook a Welsh rarebit using beer to the noisy rumble of a studio audience muddling through a rendition of the brewer’s theme song.”

“Surprisingly, it was not the nation’s largest beer makers who led the brewing industry’s charge into television. Rather, most of TV’s pioneer beer advertisers were regional brewers. In 1945, New England’s Narragansett Beer sponsored the first telecasts of Boston Red Sox games, though neither the brewery nor the baseball team seemed overly confident about the then-infant medium. In fact, Sox management granted Narragansett the sponsorship rights free of charge, telling brewery officials, ‘We don’t know what we’re doing, and neither do you.'”

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