Marketing Alcohol To Underage Youth ~ Experts Discuss Importance Of Intervention

The power of alcohol marketing

It is January 1, 2013. There will be many football bowl games televised today: The Gator Bowl, The Heart of Dallas Bowl, Capital One Bowl, Outback Bowl, Discover Orange Bowl and, of course, The Rose Bowl.  There will be numerous advertisements throughout the games; however, the content of these ads is somewhat controlled by National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) advertising policy which states:

“The NCAA’s Advertising and Promotional Standards applicable to all NCAA championships limits alcohol advertising in any form (e.g., television, radio, Internet, game publications) in association with any NCAA championship to malt beverages, beer and wine products that do not exceed six percent alcohol by volume. Further, such advertisements shall not compose more than 60 seconds per hour of any NCAA championship programming nor compose more than 14 percent of the space in the NCAA publication (e.g., game program) devoted to advertising. Also, such advertisements or advertisers shall incorporate “Drink Responsibly” educational messaging, and the content of all such advertisements shall be respectful (e.g., free of gratuitous and overly suggestive sexual innuendo, no displays of disorderly, reckless or destructive behavior) as determined by the NCAA on a case-by-case basis.”

The truth is marketing materials for alcoholic beverages can be seen almost everywhere. Just paging through the most recent issue of TIME Magazine (December 31, 2012-January 7, 2013) you will find a stunning ad for Chivas Regal, complete with the educational message: Please enjoy Chivas responsibly.

Marketing alcohol to under-age youth

While marketing alcohol to anyone of any age is highly regulated, most will agree that the main goal of advertising campaigns is not just to sell more product, but to build brand awareness and customer loyalty. Many studies have been conducted regarding the sheer numbers of alcoholic advertisements which are exposed to under-age youth. One estimate states that 45% of the commercials viewed by young people each year are advertisements for alcohol.

New study examines initiation and progression of alcohol use in underage youth…

On December 19, 2012, the online issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research published the results of a study: Alcohol Marketing Receptivity, Marketing-Specific Cognitions, and Underage Binge Drinking.

This study was conducted by lead author Auden C. McClure, MD, MPH of the Department of Pediatrics, Geisel School of Medicine, Hanover, New Hampshire and Norris Cotton Cancer Center, Lebanon, New Hampshire. Data was gathered and analyzed using the following methods:

  • 1,734 subjects ages 15-to-20 year olds were recruited
  • 882 males and 852 females
  • Participants were asked about exposure to a number of alcohol-marketing variables, such as television time, internet time, favorite alcohol advertisement, ownership of alcohol branded merchandise, exposure to alcohol brands in movies.
  • Researchers assessed the relation between the above mentioned exposures and current binge drinking behaviors


Study’s findings

According to Dr. McClure, as reported by

“We found that youth with a higher receptivity to alcohol advertising are more likely to report binge drinking – more than five drinks in a row – and that this association is mediated, at least in part, by self-identification as a drinker and having a favorite brand of alcohol to drink,” said McClure. “Further longitudinal studies are needed to determine whether advertising exposure precedes the development of these cognitions and influences future drinking behavior. If confirmed, the findings would support the plausibility of a causal relationship between marketing exposures and underage drinking.”


Intervention and risky behaviors

If you are a parent of a teenager or young college student, then chances are you are cognizant of how your child responds to advertisements of all kinds. You know this from the time your child reaches toddler age. They see advertisements on television for certain food products, toys, movies…and a new consumer comes to life. You know this when you take your child to the grocery store or a fast food restaurant, you even know it when your child talks about a new toy their playmate recently received.

As parents, we know intuitively that advertising works, so it makes perfect sense that exposure to alcohol marketing also works. But what do we do about it?

As Dr. McClure indicates, other studies have shown that: “Early onset of alcohol use is linked to alcohol dependence later in life, making both prevention and early intervention of risk behaviors important. A better understanding of the path between marketing and risk behaviors could help parents, health care providers, clinical psychologists, and substance use treatment specialists to identify and intervene when an adolescent is at risk.”

Substance use treatment specialists and interventionists understand the importance of intervening early when an adolescent or young adult is at risk.

As 2013 begins, consider taking the appropriate steps to reduce the chances that your child will develop alcohol dependence.

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