British ad trade body ISBA has called into question research from charity Alcohol Concern campaigners which claims children are more familiar with beer brands than biscuit brands, due to the prominence of the former’s advertising.
The report, which surveyed 800 primary school pupils, revealed that half of them claimed they associate their favourite football teams and tournaments with the beer brands they are sponsored by, with one in two children linking Carlsberg beer with the English national football team.
It also revealed that four in five (79 per cent) of children surveyed recognised the Foster’s characters “Brad and Dan” from the TV ad, while brand recognition of Foster’s lager was particularly high (93 per cent), ranking above McVitie’s, McCoy’s and Ben & Jerry’s.
Social media advertising also came under fire, with the report stating that children who use Facebook, Instagram and Twitter had greater recall of alcohol brands and were more likely to have consumed alcohol themselves.
As a result the Alcohol Concern campaigners have called for tighter regulations in the marketing of alcohol brands to children.
However, ISBA has defended the robustness of advertising rules in the UK, adding that body which represents drinks producers - The Portman Group – ensures rules are “strict” in this area.
Ian Twinn, director of Public Affairs at ISBA, said advertisers will be “puzzled” by the pressure group claims that their ads have resulted in greater childhood awareness of beer, and by extension develop life-long drinking habits.
“ISBA and the wider advertising industry are highly committed to maintaining strict rules. Alcohol is not aimed at children, nor can children purchase it or consume it in licenced premises. Where there is evidence of a problem business and our regulators have demonstrated time and again their active commitment to take action, whether that is in specific localities or nationally.
We take some comfort in that alcohol consumption by children has been steadily falling in the UK, including in Scotland. Whilst in France where advertising and promotions are banned or highly restricted childhood consumption has rise,” he added.
However, in the report, Tom Smith, head of policy at Alcohol Concern, said: “This research shows just how many of our children are being exposed to alcohol marketing, with an even bigger impact being made on those children with an interest in sport.
“Children get bombarded with pro-drinking messages, when the turn on the TV, go to the cinema or walk down the road, and the existing codes are failing to protect them.
“We also know the public share our concerns which is why we need urgent action from the government to make sure tighter regulations on alcohol advertising are implemented.”
Alcohol Concern, Balance North East, Drink Wise and Alcohol Focus Scotland are now all calling for alcohol advertising to be restricted to factual information in adult press, alongside the phased removal of alcohol sponsorships, a TV watershed, and for cinema advertising to run only against 18 certificate films.