Alcohol marketing in TV sport breaks spirit of law

Alcohol marketing appeared on screen once every other minute during broadcasts of the European Championships last summer, a new study has found.

An anti-alcohol group has said the research shows that companies were disregarding the spirit of existing laws designed to prevent children from being exposed to alcohol advertising.

Institute for Social Marketing researchers at Stirling University in Scotland found more than 100 alcohol marketing references for each match shown on TV in Ireland, the UK and France.

Pat Kenny, a marketing lecturer in Dublin Institute of Technology, said that the data for Ireland showed alcohol marketing appeared an average of 123 times for each broadcast. “This equated to an audience exposure to alcohol reference once every 102 seconds during the sports broadcast,” he said.

Most marketing was indirect, where brands were referenced rather than mentioned directly. Carlsberg was most featured. Its slogan “Probably the best beer in the world” appeared frequently without specific reference to the beer.

Bobby Smyth, a child psychiatrist and member of Alcohol Action Ireland, said that the remaining stages of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill should be completed as soon as possible to further restrict alcohol marketing.

“This study shows that the drinks industry has absolute disregard for the spirit of the law and demonstrates the need for a firm set of measures to restrict alcohol marketing, which are not only prescriptive but sufficiently robust to avoid the ‘foul play’ evident in the findings of this report,” Dr Smyth said.

“Alcohol marketing in sport remains an important focus for evidence-based research because of its effectiveness to influence behaviour among an adult audience but also the impact on children yet to start consuming alcohol.”

Figures from the World Health Organisation show Irish average annual consumption has fallen from 14 litres per person in 2005 to 11 litres in 2015.

An EU study found that Irish 15-year-olds were among the least likely in Europe to have got drunk. Figures from 2013 and 2014 showed that 16 per cent of Irish 15-year-old boys and girls had got drunk at least twice in their life compared with an EU average of 24 per cent of girls and 27 per cent of boys.