Australia: Alcohol Ads Avalanche Expected As Sports Re-start

Health experts in Australia predict an avalanche of alcohol advertising as sports re-start after the COVID-19 lockdown.

Alcohol advertising in sports, specifically in professional sports is a serious problem the world over. Sports and sports programmes broadcast via TV are extremely popular among young people. Health harmful industries such as alcohol exploit this popularity by sponsoring and heavily marketing their products and brands. By doing so, they align the harmful substance of alcohol with the healthy activity of sports and target and expose children and youth to alcohol promotion.

In Australia, alcohol advertising in sports is a major issue specifically considering alcohol advertising is self-regulated by the alcohol industry. In a single year, Australia’s children and adolescents experience more than 50 million exposures to alcohol advertising through telecasts of the three major national sports (AFL, NRL, cricket). Alcohol advertisements within these three sports represent 60% of all alcohol advertising in televised sport.

It has been proven time and again that alcohol industry-self regulation fails to keep children and young people safe from alcohol promotion. The self-regulation system allows alcohol ads to be shown anytime after 8:30 PM and permits alcohol advertising and sponsorship to be shown at any time of the day if within a weekend sports program (including live sport, replays or talk shows).

A new report by Dr Brian Vandenberg and Professor Kerry O’Brien in the Behavioural Sciences Research Lab in Monash University’s Faculty of Arts examines the extent, nature, and consequences of children and young people’s exposure to alcohol advertising and sponsorship.

In summary the report finds – through research evidence across the past three decades – that greater exposure to alcohol advertising and sponsorship leads to earlier alcohol initiation, and more heavy alcohol use.

In short, there’s a dose response relationship.

Extent, Nature, and Consequences of Children and Young People’s Exposure to Alcohol Advertising and Sponsorship

… 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 [alcohol consumption],” said Professor Kerry O’Brien, study co-author, as per Monash University.

Evidence is also clear that in countries with evidence-based and modern laws and regulations on alcohol marketing, there are lower rates of heavy alcohol use.

The study authors urgently call for better alcohol marketing rules and for a ban of alcohol advertising and sponsorship to protect children and young people. They emphasize that Australian regulatory controls on alcohol marketing are among the weakest in the world.

The two key measures for protecting children and young people from exposure to alcohol advertising proposed are,

  1. Banning TV alcohol advertising at times when children are known to be watching, especially during sports programs; and
  2. Removing alcohol sponsorship of sports.

The authors suggest buying out alcohol sponsorship from sports to remove the harmful alcohol advertising in sports in the country. It was proven that buying out is possible through a modestly-funded $25 million Australian trial of buying out alcohol sponsorship from national sports in 2012. While the largest sports (AFL, NRL, cricket) didn’t join the trial, 12 major national sports very willingly dropped their alcohol sponsorship in exchange for alternative funding and a healthier brand image.