Alcohol brands popular among underage drinkers are more likely to air television advertisements that violate the industry’s voluntary code by including youth-appealing content, according to a new study by researchers from Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH).
In an article in Alcoholism Clinical & Experimental Research, lead author Dr. Ziming Xuan, associate professor of community health sciences at BUSPH, and colleagues wrote that youth-preferred beer brands are among the most egregious violators of the beer industry’s policy that explicitly restricts youth-appealing advertisement content.
The researchers examined a comprehensive list of 288 brand-specific beer advertisements, representing 23 brands, broadcast during the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) men’s and women’s basketball tournaments from 1999 to 2008. A panel of health professionals rated the advertisements to assess the presence of youth-appealing content. To assess youth brand preference, the researchers examined a 2011 – 2012 national survey of 1,032 underage youth, ages 13 to 20, who had consumed at least one drink in the past 30 days.
The authors found that advertisements were broadcast 1,746 times, with an average of six minutes on the air. Advertisements with youth-appealing code violations were prevalent: 21.5 percent of the advertisements had content primarily appealing to youth drinkers. More popular brands among underage drinkers aired significantly more during nationally televised NCAA tournaments than unpopular brands. The researchers also found that for every 7 percent increase in brand popularity, there was a 70 percent relative increase in the likelihood of the brand violating the youth-appeal code.
“These results suggest that some beer producers are successfully targeting underage youth and therefore deriving profits from illegal alcohol consumption,” the researchers wrote.
In light of the results of their study, the researchers advocated for the development of marketing and advertising guidelines by public health groups and a strict enforcement of the guidelines; third party independent compliance review; and ultimately a total ban on youth-appealing alcohol advertising.
“Our evidence underscores the need for strong and independent enforcement of the code to prevent continued inclusion of youth-appealing content in alcohol marketing materials,” the authors wrote.