While branding appears to be an effective health prevention strategy, it is less clear how successful brands have protective effects. To better understand the role of branding in health prevention and promotion, it is necessary to examine how the persuasive mechanisms of branding function in health campaigns (e.g., modeling socially desirable behaviors). Using a cross-sectional data (N = 709), the current study uncovered the mechanisms explaining branding's effects on adolescent substance use in a school-based substance use intervention, keepin' it REAL (kiR) curriculum. Consistent with our predictions, a confirmatory factor analysis suggested that kiR brand equity had a higher-order, multidimensional factor structure. In addition, a path analysis revealed that brand equity affected adolescent substance use directly and through the predicted social cognitive processes including refusal efficacy and resistance skills. Thus it is concluded that kiR brand equity serves as a protective factor for adolescent substance use. Practical implications, research limitations and future directions are discussed.