The National Football League (NFL) introduced Diageo (DEO  ), a global leader in beverage alcohol, as its first Official Spirits Sponsor last week. The collaboration is one-of-a-kind, in that in past years, the NFL has been hesitant to accept sponsorships with spirits beverage companies.

The NFL has had long-standing relationships with beer brands such as Anheuser-Busch InBev's (BUD  ) Bud Light, but have been a bit slower to be open to spirits. Until the year 2017, distillers were not even permitted to be advertised throughout football games. An advertising campaign on the importance of drinking responsibly from Diageo's Crown Royal whisky was the very first advertisement to be aired during an NFL game after the ban was lifted.

"What they've done from a responsibility standpoint to us, really stood head and shoulders above other spirit companies in the marketplace," said Nana-Yaw Asamoah, vice president of business development and sponsorship for the NFL, said in a statement. "And that goes for their marketing standards, which hold themselves to a higher standard than the rest of the market, and kind of used it to inform our policies as we looked to advertising restrictions and opening up spirits in-game advertising in 2017."

Since the revoking of U.S. Prohibition in the 1930's, the spirits industry has controlled its own advertising and marketing with voluntary instructions for distillers. For instance, the code necessitates that spirits producers only on television programs where at least 71.6% of the audience is at least 21 years old. Spirits' higher alcohol content possesses a taboo that distinguishes it from beer and wine in the eyes of some, who desire even higher standards for hard liquor, expressing concerns regarding underage consumers who are looking at the ads.

The spirits industry's advertising spending went down last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, but has been on the rise in 2021. According to Kantar Media, spirit's advertisements increased by 20% in the first quarter of 2021 from a year earlier. Through this new collaboration between the NFL and Diageo, the NFL plans to expand its fan base while encouraging viewers to drink responsibly.