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Top 10 spirits brands on social media

While social media has the ability to boost brands’ success around the world, opaque posts by ‘influencers’ have fallen foul of regulators. Here, SB recognises the best-performing brands on social media and names the Social Media Hero from our Brand Champions 2019 report.

SB presents the top 10 spirits brands on social media

There’s no doubt that social media plays a vital role in digital marketing, allowing spirits brands to reach millions of consumers worldwide. Having a strong social presence empowers alcohol brands to stand out from an enormous crowd of category competitors, who are all striving for the attention of the drinking-age population.

In 2012, to create a safer alcohol industry, the CEOs of 11 leading alcohol companies, including Diageo, Pernod Ricard, Bacardi, Beam Suntory and Brown-­Forman, banded together to create the not-­for-profit International Alliance for Responsible Drinking (IARD). In September 2018 the IARD committed to a partnership with Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and YouTube to deliver “robust responsible marketing standards” across the social media sites.

The alliance will work with the platforms to see what changes can be made to reduce the chances of under­age consumers viewing alcohol advertising, and also explore ways people can have more control over whether they see such content – or opt out of viewing these campaigns altogether if they wish.

New research from the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs claims that alcohol advertisements on social media sites such as Facebook can increase young adults’ desire to drink if the ads contain pro­-drinking comments from users. The report noted that social media users are also more likely to ‘share’ or ‘like’ an advert with pro­-drinking comments. Researchers suggested the industry “needs to do more to improve the voluntary self­-regulatory system that governs its advertising, possibly by limiting or banning comments on social media advertising”.

For the alcohol industry, the digital sphere can present a unique set of challenges. While social media networks have improved their age-verification practices in recent years, there is another form of advertising that is often hard to spot: ‘influencer’ marketing.

Brands are increasingly using their marketing budgets to promote their products through ‘influencers’, but this form of advertising has come under fire in the last few years.


In December 2018, a complaint was filed against Diageo alleging more than 1,700 alcohol ads for Cîroc vodka were posted on Instagram by ‘influencers’ who failed to openly disclose their connection to the brand.

The investigation by ( claimed that posts from 50 Cîroc social media ‘influencers’ – including Cîroc’s ‘strategic alliance’ partner Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs and rapper Bow Wow – violated Federal Trade Commission (FTC) law.

It came just eight months after another investigation had called out hip-­hop producer DJ Khaled for failing to mark alcohol-sponsored social media promotons as ads. DJ Khaled, who promoted a number of booze brands, including Cîroc, overhauled his social media accounts after receiving a written warning.

More recently, research from Australian health promotion foundation VicHealth in April found that a third of Australia’s top Instagram ‘influencers’ who have promoted alcohol brands also failed to disclose their commercial partnerships.

While it can often put brands in hot water, ‘influencer’ marketing can also be hugely effective in reaching new drinkers.

It’s one strategy that has certainly helped Pernod Ricard’s Malibu rum to take the second spot on our Social Media Heroes list. This year, the brand is “ramping up” its ‘influencer’ programme for the global roll­-out of its Malibu Games campaign, which will feature 32 ‘influencers’ from nine countries, including comedian and model Hannah Stocking and Dominican singer Natti Natasha.

In our assessment of the social presence of the world’s million-­case spirits brands, we evaluated brands’ performances on what we believe to be the three most crucial social media platforms – Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

While Snapchat is certainly a major social player, with huge advertising potential for spirits brands, it would be difficult to evaluate the performance of spirits on content that can disappear in seconds or on a daily basis. As part of the judging criteria, we looked at: the number of likes, shares, comments, retweets and favourites; and the frequency and creativity of posts; with a focus on global accounts.

Brands on our list were praised for their vibrant campaigns, celeb­-filled content, eye­-catching cocktail shots, timely posts around cultural events and initiatives that carry important societal themes.

Click through the following pages to discover the top 10 spirits brands on social media.

The list has been compiled as part of The Spirits Business‘s Brand Champions report, which is available to view here. As such, it includes only brands that sell more than one million nine-litre cases annually.

These figures are based on research conducted by The Spirits Business in May 2019, and so the majority of brands included have most likely grown their followers and fans since.

10. The Glenlivet

Facebook fans: 728,325 | Twitter followers: 29.3k | Instagram followers: 60.6k

Engagement 6 | Frequency 7 | Creativity 7 | Consistency 9 | Overall score 29

The only Scotch whisky to make our top 10 list was Pernod Ricard’s single malt The Glenlivet. The brand often featured striking lifestyle shots across its channels and fun interactive videos for its Glenlivet Code campaign.

Over on Facebook, a Facebook live video broadcast from the distillery allowed fans to ask the master distiller questions, providing exclusive content for whisky lovers.

9. Aperol

Facebook fans: 1,016,902 | Twitter followers: 5,434 | Instagram followers: 55.4k

Engagement 9 | Frequency 6 | Creativity 7 | Consistency 7  | Overall score 29

Campari Group’s apéritif brand Aperol grabbed the ninth spot on our list, lauded for its high level of engagement. The brand posted pleasing content to communicate its 100th birthday, along with beautiful images of its signature Aperol Spritz serve.

In addition, we also noted that the brand was very responsive to fans on Twitter, often making jokes and sending thoughtful messages.

8. Hennessy

Facebook fans: 3,655,789 | Twitter followers: 69.4k | Instagram followers: 466k

Engagement 6 | Frequency 8 | Creativity 8 | Consistency 8 | Overall score 30

A consistent poster across its social media channels is LVMH-owned Cognac Hennessy. The brand makes use of video content to show its production and also collaborated with film director Ridley Scott on a new campaign, called The Seven Worlds. In addition to frequent cocktail recipe shots, the brand is also very active when it comes to Instagram stories.

7. Smirnoff

Facebook fans: 14,284,159 | Twitter followers: 15.7k | Instagram followers: 186k

Engagement 7 | Frequency 7 | Creativity 9 | Consistency 8 | Overall score 31

Gaining high points for creativity was Diageo-owned vodka brand Smirnoff. The brand communicated its Equalising Music campaign through interactive posts and took advantage of cultural events such as Eurovision for self-promotion. While it might not post as often on Twitter, the type of content is engaging and relevant to themes such as equality.

Smirnoff’s Instagram page in the US is very active with fun videos promoting new products such as the Zero Sugar Infusions range, the canned Smirnoff Ice and the new Selzter Rose flavour. The brand also uses the power of celebrity to gain new followers with its latest campaign push featuring actor Ted Danson.

6. Jägermeister

Facebook fans: 5,706,098 | Twitter followers: 16.5k | Instagram followers: 332k

Engagement 7 | Frequency 9 | Creativity 7 | Consistency 8 | Overall score 31

Herbal liqueur brand Jägermeister was lauded for its high frequency of posts, which is updated regularly to feature content such as competitions and gigs. The brand has a strong focus on music across its social media channel and often features its Jägerhaus, Jägermeister’s huge festival installation.

The brand also makes use of the hashtag #JagerIceCold accompanied with lifestyle shots of the brand.

On Instagram, Jägermeister’s feed consists of dark shots of the brand to tap into the nightlife drinking occasion.

5. Patrón

Facebook fans: 4,304,331 | Twitter followers: 228k | Instagram followers: 238k

Engagement 8 | Frequency 8 | Creativity 8 | Consistency 8 | Overall score 32

Last year’s Social Media Hero, Bacardi-owned Patrón Tequila, was lauded for its aspirational aesthetic and inspiring cocktail shots.

The brand’s social media channels also benefited from its Margarita of the Year cocktail competition, featuring stylishly shot videos of the bartenders making their signature serves.

Patrón also makes use of its #SimplyPerfect hashtag across its platforms to communicate recommended serves and colourful cocktail recipes. The brand also featured timely content for Cinco de Mayo (5 May) and Earth Day (22 April) to communicate its sustainable approach.

4. Jameson

Facebook fans: 4,083,885  | Twitter followers: 35k | Instagram followers: 115k

Engagement 8 | Frequency 7 | Creativity 9 | Consistency 8 | Overall score 32

Jameson Irish whiskey came in at fourth place, impressing the team with its fun content for timely events including April Fools’ Day (1 April) and Star Wars Day (4 May). The brand debuted an April Fools’ Day video for its Jameson Catchmates, a clever play on its Caskmates beer-finished range, which aimed to “catch your thieving mates green-handed” with its anti-theft ‘glitter-shot’ technology.

Scoring highly for creativity and consistently, the brand is very active on Instagram with artsy shots of the brand and regular competitions.

3. Grey Goose

Facebook fans: 2,529,987 | Twitter followers: 90.1k | Instagram followers: 326k

Engagement 8 | Frequency 8 | Creativity 9 | Consistency 8 | Overall score 33

A new entry to our list is Bacardi-owned Grey Goose vodka, which has put investment behind its new marketing campaign Live Victoriously. The platform, which marks a major change for the brand, has been rigorously promoted across Grey Goose’s social media channels in recent months using the hashtag #LiveVictoriously.

The brand has overhauled its global digital and social channels for the campaign, which is centred on the idea of celebrating both big and small moments.

The Live Victoriously campaign has seen a number of celebrities involved in its launch through fun video content including comedian Jack Whitehall and actor Jamie Fox. In addition, the brand’s Twitter and Instagram feed is full of beautiful lifestyle imagery including cocktail recipes and holiday shots.

2. Malibu

Facebook fans: 2,465,183 | Twitter followers: 44.5k | Instagram followers: 51.8k

Engagement 9 | Frequency 9 | Creativity 8 | Consistency 8 | Overall score 34

Marketing the drink as the “spirit of summer”, Malibu’s successful Because Summer campaign has boosted its popularity among consumers.

The brand has created fun and vibrant content for the global roll-out of its Malibu Games campaign using hashtags #BecauseSummer and #MalibuGames. Malibu said its “digital-first approach” ensures that the brand is “front of mind with young adults”.

Over on Instagram, Malibu posts consistently with lots of aesthetic shots and tropical vibes. The brand also seeks to target its millennial audience through a number of festival activations broadcasted on its channels.

1. Jack Daniel’s

Facebook fans: 17,174,855 | Twitter followers: 197k | Instagram followers: 409k

Engagement 10 | Frequency 9 | Creativity 8 | Consistency 8 | Overall score 35

This year’s title of Social Media Hero has been given to Brown­-Forman’s American whiskey brand Jack Daniel’s.

The brand regularly interacted with consumers on Twitter, posted aesthetic cocktail shots and published fun videos and content for annual occasions, such as International Mother’s Day (12 May) and World Whisky Day (18 May). The brand’s new podcast series, Around the Barrel, lifestyle shots of new products showcasing the latest trends and fun Facebook competitions have also helped to build the brand’s fan base.

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