Alcohol ads in sport impact drinking attitudes

Tuesday, 30 April, 2019

Alcohol ads in sport impact drinking attitudes

Research has found that repeated exposure to alcohol advertising in sport, particularly a popular brand, leads to more positive attitudes towards alcohol in general.

Despite evidence showing that direct alcohol sponsorship of sport is associated with more hazardous drinking and that large numbers of children are exposed to alcohol messages while watching sport, the alcohol industry still accounts for about 20% of all sport sponsorships internationally.

Published in Drug and Alcohol Review, researchers from the Parisien Laboratory of Social Psychology, the University Grenoble of Alpes and Monash University found a positive and casual link between alcohol sponsorship and attitudes, noting these changes can occur automatically.

As part of the study, 109 students from France were exposed to 10 minutes of a rugby match featuring one of three sponsorship conditions: a globally renowned beer; a domestic beer; or motor oil. They tested whether incidental exposure to alcohol ads influenced the participants’ evaluation of brands and alcohol in general, and whether these decision-making processes occurred naturally. 

“We found evidence to suggest that the more popular the brand of alcohol, the greater the influence in changes to participants’ drinking attitudes. This wasn’t the case when the alcohol brand was relatively unknown, or if the sponsorship was unrelated to alcohol, in this case motor oil,” said study lead Dr Oulmann Zerhouni from the Parisien Laboratory of Social Psychology.

He also said this exposure may automatically change attitudes “because it doesn’t require an individual to cognitively process the advertising stimuli”.

“What we showed is that alcohol advertising and sponsorship not only send a message directly encouraging people to drink, but tends to implicitly and/or unconsciously associate a product, like beer, within a specific context of going to the football or watching a sports match on television,” said the study’s co-author, Professor Kerry O’Brien, from Monash University’s School of Social Sciences.

Repeated exposure to alcohol advertising and sponsorship is likely to have a long-term effect on drinking, and O’Brien said this needs to be understood and addressed. “This is especially important for countries that allow alcohol marketing in sport programming during the day, when we know hundreds of thousands of children are watching.”

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