Are Bottle Shops Using Twitter To Increase Advertising or Encourage Drinking During COVID-19?
Preliminary reports suggested that liquor retailers used COVID-19 to promote alcohol through sponsored posts on Facebook and Instagram. To further understand the advertising practices during this period, we aimed to determine whether packaged liquor retailers increased their posts during COVID-19 or used COVID-19 to promote alcohol on Twitter.
‘Tweets’ (Twitter posts) from all packaged liquor retailers in NSW written since 2018 were collected. Tweets written during the first COVID-19 lockdown period were coded for: references of COVID-19, types of marketing message, use of links to online stores and use of an alcohol-related ‘meme’.
There was no evidence of increased tweet frequency, however, some COVID-specific alcohol advertising was detected that leveraged the pandemic (4.0%) or referencing the pandemic without explicitly promoting alcohol (12.0%). The most popular market messages used in the tweets were encouraging alcohol use (15.4%) and easy access to alcohol at home (9.5%).
At least on Twitter, there was no marked increase in posts from packaged liquor retailers in NSW and only some tweets used COVID-19 to promote alcohol.
Implications for public health
The use of COVID-specific alcohol marketing on social media raises important considerations for legislative and regulatory requirements, particularly during major health events such as a pandemic.