Case for Change

New Zealand homes are a common place for children to be exposed to alcohol marketing. Local research shows the home is the most common place for children to be exposed to alcohol marketing, with 47% of all exposures occurring in the home, most often through sports sponsorship and branded merchandise.

Exposure to alcohol advertising, including that in the home, is related to taking up drinking earlier and heavier drinking.  The latest research indicates that the relationship between exposure to alcohol marketing and underage drinking is causal.

Social media is commonly used by alcohol companies to market their product. Many young people share images of themselves and alcohol brands, exposing others and using alcohol brand values to construct and position their social identities.

Being exposed to alcohol promotions can lead to alcohol harms.

Reducing exposure in our homes

In our homes, children may be exposed to many different types/forms of alcohol marketing, including:

  • advertising and sponsorship of sporting events, teams, and athletes
  • advertising on TV and/or radio
  • alcohol promotion within TV & radio programmes and content
  • alcohol marketing and images of drinking behaviour on social media from brands, influencers, and peers
  • alcohol products and alcohol-branded merchandise that are owned by family members, friends.
  • product placement in movies and video games
  • alcohol advertising in supermarket, grocery, and off-licence mailers and other material delivered to mailboxes

Impact of advertising on adolescent drinking

Systematic reviews of research have found exposure to alcohol marketing leads to earlier initiation of drinking and heavier drinking including binge drinking among those who already drink.  In particular, engagement with alcohol marketing (taking free gifts, owning branded clothing, engaging with alcohol websites and branded social media pages) saw children engaging in frequent drinking earlier.  Having a favourite alcohol advertisement was associated with increased initiation of binge drinking.

Underage binge drinking has been associated with a range of negative outcomes, including peer violence, sexual violence, alcohol‐related fighting, poor school performance, suicide attempts, and using illegal drugs.

Exposure of alcohol advertising on social media

The introduction of digital technologies has opened up new platforms for marketing and promotion.

Alcohol companies aggressively use these new digital platforms, in particular social media (Facebook, Instagram, etc.) and user-generated content.

In 2011, two major alcohol companies announced their plan to increase their digital spend on social media. Bacardi planned to shift up to 90% of its digital spend to Facebook and Diageo expressed their multi-million dollar partnership with Facebook.

Worldwide in 2012, there were 1,017 company-sponsored alcohol-brand related sites on Facebook. In Australia, the top 20 alcohol brands had more than 2.5 million followers on their Facebook pages. Hosts of these pages generated more than 4,500 items of content where followers interacted with them by liking, sharing or commenting on them for more them 2.3 million times.

Young adults are highly active on social media, engaging with their friends or socialising. As such, exposure of alcohol advertising on social media can encourage alcohol consumption. Moreover, Facebook or other social media platform provides marketers with access to the profile data of users who like pages. These types of techniques seek to embed alcohol-branded activities in the daily lives of site fans and followers making it become an intrinsic element of daily norms.

Alcohol-content, presented as visual images and or textual content, along with positive peer reactions to the posts results in showcasing of inappropriate alcohol use in a positive light.

Posting alcohol-related content on personal social media accounts is linked to adverse alcohol-related outcomes such as higher alcohol use, craving and also alcohol-related harms. Those who are exposed to alcohol-related content on social media (e.g. posts shared by or liked by their friends in their social network) have been associated with adverse alcohol outcomes.

Associate Professor Nicholas Carah of University of Queensland, has been researching the emergence of digital media platforms over the last decade.  He recently gave a remote address to the Global Alcohol Policy Conference 2020 in Dublin discussion the emergence and and increasingly sophisticated development of alcohol marketing on these platforms.  You can watch his presentation on YouTube here

Watch Nicholas Carah's presentation on alcohol marketing and digital media platforms here