Self-regulation by the industry is not protecting children from sports alcohol ads

Children and young peoples exposure to alcohol advertising and sponsorship are associated with earlier age of initiation of alcohol use, and more hazardous drinking shows a new report. The report has examined 30 peer-reviewed empirical studies on the nature and extent of alcohol advertising and sponsorship, including approximately 100 000 children from Australia, New Zealand, Europe, and the United States. The studies are consistent in showing that there is a dose-response between marketing and children's drinking habits.


The wide timeslots during that allow alcohol advertising to be shown in Australia, makes it in effect, unregulated. A study in 2015 found that adolescents in Australia were exposed to alcohol advertising through televised sports 51 million times in one year, with 47% of this exposure occurring during the daytime.

The report's co-author Professor O'Brien says:

"Sport is the leading single entertainment genre for marketing alcohol to children and young people, and research shows advertising and sponsorship in sport is highly effective in influencing children and young people's attitudes toward alcohol, and their drinking".

More frequent exposure to alcohol advertising and sponsorship is associated with more problematic alcohol attitudes and drinking behaviours. There is also evidence suggesting that the content of alcohol advertising and sponsorship messages affects children and young people's engagement and liking of alcohol.

There is limited evidence on the impact of online alcohol marketing on young people's alcohol-related attitudes and drinking behaviour. This is concerning given the increasing use of online and social media alcohol advertising and the significant gaps in the regulation of digital and online advertising. However, exposure to alcohol advertising remains highest by traditional media such as television and sports sponsorship. 

While the impacts on health from allowing exposure to alcohol marketing and sponsorship are quite clear, the impact of preventing exposure is equally clear. Research involving multiple countries shows that countries that have implemented stricter alcohol advertising and sponsorship regulations have lower rates of hazardous drinking.

Several recent studies have shown that there is widespread public support for stricter regulations or bans on alcohol advertising and sponsorship, particularly among parents. Furthermore, government-initiated review panels in several countries (New Zealand, South Africa, and Ireland) have recommended stricter regulation or banning of alcohol advertising and sponsorship, particularly in sport.

The authors of the report suggest four recommendations to protect children and young people:

  1. Stronger restrictions/bans on alcohol advertising and sponsorship on television at times when children are known to be watching, and particularly in sports where alcohol advertising is allowed at any time of the day
  2. Remove alcohol sponsorship from sports
  3. Strengthen regulation of the content of alcohol advertising
  4. Develop responsive regulation to online and digital alcohol advertising.


Read the full report: 


co-funded by health programme

co-funded by health programme

co-funded by Scottish Government

Co-funded by the Scottish Government

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