Brewers call foul on alcohol advertising claims

10 April, 2019 by Andy Young

The Brewers Association of Australia has hit back at media reports regarding alcohol advertising, sports sponsorship and youth drinking, which the association has labelled as “demonstrably wrong”.

The reports followed a media release and report from the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education into alcohol advertising in the NRL and AFL. The release claimed: “There is overwhelming evidence that exposure to alcohol marketing encourages children to start drinking from an earlier age and is linked to increased consumption, including among school children and those who play the sport.”

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However the Brewers Association said this claim was wrong.

“Over the last 40 years alcohol advertising has increased in volume and expanded its reach, especially in the last 10-15 years through digital and online media. Yet, every Australian Government indicator over the same period shows underage drinking improving markedly.”

The association pointed to abstinence among 12-17 year olds in 2004 being 54.3 per cent, whereas in 2016 it was 82 per cent. In 2004 the average age of first drink was 14.7, in 2016 it was 16.1. In addition the proportion of 12-17 year olds drinking at lifetime risky patterns has declined from 6.4 per cent in 2004 to 1.3 per cent in 2016 and the proportion of 12-17 year olds at risk of drinking harm on a single occasion has fallen in that timeframe from 17.2 per cent to 5.4 per cent.

The Brewers Association said: “If the claim were true, the trends in underage drinking would be going up. Instead, they are falling.

“Independent Australian and international research shows alcohol advertising is not a catalyst for youth attitudes to alcohol, drinking behaviour or uptake. Parents, family and peers are by far the principal influences.

“In 2014, Australian researchers concluded that the predictors of frequent alcohol consumption among adolescents included having a sibling or a friend who consumed alcohol; believing parents, friends and/or siblings approved of drinking; drinking behaviours of parents, friends and/or siblings.”

It added: “Australia’s major brewers pride themselves on responsible marketing and strict adherence to the Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code (ABAC), which stipulates no alcohol ads can be aired during programming with less than 75 per cent adult viewership.

“Australia’s official source of television audience measurement – reveals that those aged 18+ account for the vast majority of sport viewers, including the 2018 AFL and NRL seasons where 92 per cent and 91 per cent, respectively, of viewers are adults.

“You cannot, with any credibility, claim that sports broadcasts or the ads run during them target kids when less than 10 per cent of viewers are under 18.”

The foundation reviewed clubs’ official websites, merchandise and social media channels to find 17 of 18 men’s AFL clubs and 15 of the 16 NRL clubs had some form of alcohol sponsorship. The Brewers Association said this is set against a backdrop of declining alcohol consumption more generally. Australian Bureau of Statistics data records a steady decline since the 1970s with the most recent data showing alcohol consumption per capita is at a 55-year low.