Online Gamers Exposed to Avalanche of Alcohol Ads

An avalanche of alcohol ads are directed at online gamers and laws are failing to protect especially the youth from these ads.

E-sports is big business. Games like Fortnite, FIFA, League of Legends and Starcraft – formerly the domain of gamers on TVs at home – are now played in stadiums, with millions in prize money, and broadcast on TV. For example, a recent tournament for the game ‘Dota 2’ had a $50 million prize pool and millions of people watching at home.

Star e-sport players are celebrities and influencers in the world of gaming. They have millions of followers on social media and earn money through sponsorship deals with different companies. Tournaments can feature advertising for alcohol or junk food brands through naming rights, venue branding or even product placement within games.

E-sports are unregulated

According to research by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE), e-sports are unregulated and directly funnel advertising of unhealthy products such as alcohol to gamers including minors.

Products like ready-to-drink liquor, also known as ‘alcopops’, as well as regular liquor and beer were fequently associated with both e-sports competitors and competitions, with alcohol advertised at venues and sometimes even inserted into games themselves as a new kind of product placement.

It is an extremely lucrative platform for advertisers, they’re accessing the next generation of consumers.

There’s a lot of harmful product categories like alcohol, gambling, … and junk food,” said Associate Professor Sarah Kelly, from the UQ business school, as per 10 Daily.

The FARE research found,

  • 53% of gamers surveyed would be classed as ‘addicted’ to games,
  • Those aged 18-34 have the highest prevalence of gaming addiction,
  • Those addicted to gaming were more likely to purchase alcohol advertised around games, and more likely to consume more alcohol while playing or watching games.

Alcohol advertising laws need to be updated

Many advertising codes cover how and when products like alcohol, gambling and smoking can be shown in media, but they currently do not apply to e-sports, meaning young people may be exposed to inappropriate ads. 

Even with regulation, the alcohol industry has been finding ways to use sports to sponsor their products. For e-sports the case is worse as there is no regulation.

Professor Kelly has called for the federal government in Australia to step in and update advertising regulations to better protect young fans and capture e-sports under the same rules that govern other sports.

We need to have a look at widespread reform of existing advertising schemes to embrace these new digital spaces in sports and entertainment. We are a little outdated,” said Associate Professor Sarah Kelly, from the UQ business school, as per 10 Daily.

As The Sydney Morning Herald reports, FARE chief executive Michael Thorn called on the federal government to regulate social media platforms to prevent alcohol advertising to children and young people.

In Australia alcohol ads are regulated through the voluntary Alcohol Beverage Advertising Code which is evidently failing to regulate alcohol ads through e-sports and social media.

The government of Australia is currently finalizing the National Alcohol Strategy (NAS), which is supposed to address digital marketing and social media marketing of alcohol. However a recent analysis by FARE found even the NAS has been undermined after consultation with the alcohol industry.

Australia Exposed: Big Alcohol Calls Shots on Health Policy