University-Affiliated Alcohol Marketing Enhances the Incentive Salience of Alcohol Cues

Bruce D. Bartholow, Chris Loersch, Tiffany A. Ito, Meredith P. Levsen, Hannah I. Volpert-Esmond, Kimberly A. Fleming, Paul Bolls, Brooke K. Carter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


We tested whether affiliating beer brands with universities enhances the incentive salience of those brands for underage drinkers. In Study 1, 128 undergraduates viewed beer cues while event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded. Results showed that beer cues paired with in-group backgrounds (logos for students’ universities) evoked an enhanced P3 ERP component, a neural index of incentive salience. This effect varied according to students’ levels of identification with their university, and the amplitude of the P3 response prospectively predicted alcohol use over 1 month. In Study 2 (N = 104), we used a naturalistic advertisement exposure to experimentally create in-group brand associations and found that this manipulation caused an increase in the incentive salience of the beer brand. These data provide the first evidence that marketing beer via affiliating it with students’ universities enhances the incentive salience of the brand for underage students and that this effect has implications for their alcohol involvement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-94
Number of pages12
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018


  • alcohol marketing
  • event-related potentials
  • in-group affiliation
  • incentive salience
  • marketing
  • open data


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