A message to the European Sponsorship Agency: research shows that alcohol marketing is not harmless

June 27th, 2013 

In its statement of June 20th, ESA –the European Sponsorship Agency- stated that they are not aware of ‘any research that shows that young people are adversely affected by alcohol advertising; while they may be aware of it, it does not influence their drinking patterns’.

In this short reaction Wim van Dalen (European Centre for Monitoring Alcohol Marketing) and Dr. Kerry O’Brien, a research expert in the field of  alcohol industry sponsorship and promotion in sport, would like to point out the statement regarding alcohol advertising by the ESA is erroneous, and that peer-reviewed empirical research suggests that young people are adversely affected by alcohol advertising:
2009: Thirteen studies with a positive impact on drinking
Anderson et al. (2009) reviewed thirteen longitudinal studies conducted in several countries, and including over 38.000 youngsters aged 10-21 [1]. Twelve of the thirteen studies found an impact of exposure to alcohol marketing practices on subsequent alcohol use, including initiation of drinking in previously non-drinkers and heavier drinking amongst existing drinkers. The thirteenth study found a positive effect on the intention to drink alcohol [2]. The strength of the impact differed between the studies, but the review showed that there is conclusive evidence that exposure to alcohol marketing is associated with the initiation of alcohol use and with increased drinking among those who already drink. The findings of Anderson et al. are supported by two other systematic reviews [3, 4]. A recent study questioned 3.890 US students once per year from the 7th through the 10th grades [5]. This research concluded that alcohol ad exposure and the affective reaction to those ads influence some youth to drink more and experience drinking-related problems later in adolescence [5].
Impact of brand allegiance
Cross-sectional studies also find a positive effect of alcohol marketing on the drinking behaviour of young people. Lin et al. (2012) find exposure to all forms of alcohol marketing is associated with drinking by young people [6]. They also found that having established a brand allegiance at age 13-14, was related to drinking patterns including consuming larger quantities [6]. Another cross-sectional study found that exposure to alcohol advertisements among Australian adolescents is strongly associated with drinking patterns [7]. More recent research examines the effects on online alcohol marketing. This study in which over nine thousand adolescents in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland were questioned, found a dose-response effect on alcohol consumption, specifiaclly, the association with binge drinking becomes stronger with high levels of exposure to online alcohol marketing [8].
Alcohol marketing and sport         
Furthermore, it has been well established by many studies in Australia, New Zealand and the USA that sportspeople drink more alcohol in a more hazardous manner than non-sportspeople [9-15]. Additionally, it has been shown that levels of heavy episodic drinking have increased among young people, especially amongst sororities, fraternities and athletes in the USA and the UK [16]. Importantly, two studies in Australia and New Zealand showed that sportspeople who are sponsored by alcohol-related industries drank in a more  hazardous way than those not sponsored by alcohol industries, and those who have non-alcoholic sponsors [9, 17].        
Research indicates that the amount of exposure to alcohol advertising and promotion through various media affects youth drinking behaviour (lowering the age of initiation and leading to heavier consumption in those who are already drinkers). This conclusion is supported by several empirical- and review studies, published in peer reviewed journals [4] and by the Science Group of the Alcohol and Health Forum of the European Commission [18]. Alcohol branded sport sponsorship is able to add to the exposure of alcohol advertising since most sports are viewed and visited by many children and young people.
Wim van Dalen, president of the European Centre for Monitoring Alcohol Marketing
Dr. Kerry O \'Brien PhD, Behavioural Studies team Monash University & honorary fellow at the University of Manchester 
1. Anderson, P., et al., Impact of alcohol advertising and media exposure on adolescent alcohol use: a systematic review of longitudinal studies. Alcohol Alcohol, 2009. 44(3): p. 229-43.
2. Pasch, K.E., et al., Outdoor alcohol advertising near schools: what does it advertise and how is it related to intentions and use of alcohol among young adolescents? J Stud Alcohol Drugs, 2007. 68(4): p. 587-96.
3. Meier, P., et al., Independent review of the effects of alcohol pricing and promotion: Part B. Modelling the potential impact of pricing and promotion policies for alcohol in England: Results from the Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model Version 2008 (1-1). University of Sheffield: Report for Department of Health Policy Research Programme, 2008.
4. Smith, L.A. and D.R. Foxcroft, The effect of alcohol advertising, marketing and portrayal on drinking behaviour in young people: systematic review of prospective cohort studies. BMC Public Health, 2009. 9: p. 51.
5. Grenard, J.L., C.W. Dent, and A.W. Stacy, Exposure to Alcohol Advertisements and Teenage Alcohol-Related Problems. Pediatrics, 2013.
6. Lin, E.-Y.J., Caswell, S, You, R Q, Huckle, T, Engagement with alcohol marketing and early brand allegiance in relation to early years of drinking. Addiction Research & Theory, 2012. 20(4): p. 329-338.
7. Jones, S.C. and C.A. Magee, Exposure to Alcohol Advertising and Alcohol Consumption among Australian Adolescents. Alcohol and Alcoholism, 2011. 46(5): p. 630-637.
8. Bruijn de, A., Exposure to online alcohol advertising and adolescents’ binge drinking: A cross-sectional study in four European countries, in Alcohol Policy in Europe: Evidence from AMPHORA, P. Anderson, Braddick, F., Reynolds J., Gual, A., Editor 2012, The AMPHORA Project: Barcelona. p. 56-64.
9. O\' Brien, K. and K. Kypri, Alcohol industry sponsorship and hazardous drinking among sportspeople. Addiction, 2008. 103(12): p. 1961-1966.
10. Leichliter, J.S., et al., Alcohol Use and Related Consequences Among Students With Varying Levels of Involvement in College Athletics. Journal of American College Health, 1998. 46(6): p. 257-262.
11. Martens, M.P., et al., Perceived alcohol use among friends and alcohol consumption among college athletes. Psychology of addictive behaviors, 2006. 20(2): p. 178.
12. Wechsler, H. and T.F. Nelson, Binge drinking and the American college student: what\' s five drinks? Psychology of addictive behaviors, 2001. 15(4): p. 287-291.
13. O\' Brien, K.S., J.M. Blackie, and J.A. Hunter, Hazardous drinking in elite New Zealand sportspeople. Alcohol and Alcoholism, 2005. 40(3): p. 239-241.
14. O\' Brien, K.S., et al., Hazardous drinking in New Zealand sportspeople: level of sporting participation and drinking motives. Alcohol and Alcoholism, 2007. 42(4): p. 376-382.
15. O\' Brien, K.S., et al., Alcohol consumption in sport: The influence of sporting idols, friends and normative drinking practices. Drug and Alcohol Review, 2010. 29(6): p. 676-683.
16. Wechsler, H., et al., Correlates of college student binge drinking. American Journal of Public Health, 1995. 85(7): p. 921-926.
17. O\' Brien, K.S., et al., Alcohol industry and non-alcohol industry sponsorship of sportspeople and drinking. Alcohol and Alcoholism, 2011. 46(2): p. 210-213.
18. Forum, S.G.o.t.E.A.a.H. Does marketing communication impact on the volume and patterns of consumption of alcoholic beverages, especially by young people? - a review of longitudinal studies. 2009
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