Alcohol - Health Committee Contents

7  Marketing and the drinks industry

Scale and types

156. Expenditure by the alcohol industry on marketing and promotion is large and far more than expenditure on health promotion marketing and advertising. In the UK the total expenditure on alcoholic drinks advertising on television, the radio, in the press, outdoors, and in cinemas is about £200m.[195] Total spending on marketing communications by the alcohol industry was estimated to be £600-800m (including sponsorships, product tie-ins and placements, contests and sweepstakes, and special promotions) by the PM's strategy unit in 2003.[196]

157. In 2006 49% of alcoholic drinks advertising was spent on television advertising. Between 2004 and 2006, there was an increase in the number of commercial spots aired on television: 367,000 in 2004, 412,000 in 2005 and 442,000 in 2006.[197] Lager products had the highest proportion of total commercial spots for alcoholic drinks in both 2002 and 2006 (25% and 30%), with cider/perry accounting for the biggest rise in share of the sector in 2006.

158. Television is only part of the alcohol marketing communications strategy. Several witnesses commented on a growing trend away from traditional forms of direct advertising in the print and broadcast media to other forms such as sponsorship, competitions and special promotions. We were told that new media were becoming more popular, for example text messaging to mobile phones and social network sites. Viral marketing and viral advertising are increasingly important. These terms refer to marketing techniques that use social networks to produce increases in brand awareness or to achieve other marketing objectives (such as product sales) through self-replicating viral processes, analogous to the spread of pathological and computer viruses. The 'virus' can be delivered through word-of-mouth or may take the form of video clips, interactive games, "advergames", ebooks, or text message.[198] During our inquiry Price Waterhouse Cooper reported that the amount companies spent on internet marketing was greater than traditional print advertising for the first time.

159. The sponsorship of sport and cultural events, many with a particular appeal to the young, has become a key promotional vehicle for alcohol. Alcohol drinks companies were the second largest source of sponsorship funding from 2003 to 2006, behind the financial services sector.[199] In 2006, financial sources accounted for 19.2% of sports sponsorship, alcoholic drinks 11.6% and sports goods 10.2% of active deals. Forty-nine of the 71 UK sports sponsorship deals included in the analysis were paid for by the brewing industry, with the rest by other alcohol producers.

Below we list a number of alcohol industry sports sponsorship deals.
—  Table 3: Examples of alcohol industry sports sponsorship deals, 2008
—  Brand —  Sport sponsorship deal
—  Carling lager —  Title sponsorship of the Football League cup in England and shirt sponsorship of Glasgow's Celtic and Rangers Football Clubs
—  John Smith's ale —  Title sponsor of the Grand National plus other race days at the majority of UK racecourses
—  Magners Irish Cider —  Sponsors two British rugby union teams, was title sponsor of a rugby union league championship for Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and hosted a golf championship in Wales and in Scotland
—  Guinness stout —  Title sponsor of an English rugby union league
—  Johnnie Walker whisky —  Formula One McLaren Team sponsors
—  Stella Artois lager —  Title sponsor of a London tennis tournament for 30 years, ending 2008[200]
—  Carlsberg lager —  For 17 years, until September 2009, Carlsberg sponsored Liverpool FC

Source: BMA, Under the Influence (2009) (modified)

160. Both the Football League and the Premier League are sponsored by the drinks industry. The Football League currently relies more heavily on such sponsorship and has been sponsored by Carling since the beginning of the 2003-2004 season; its involvement is set to continue until the end of the 2012 season.[201]

161. In addition, Carling sponsors the Football League's Carling Cup. The partnership between The Football League and Carling's parent company, The Molson Coors Brewing Company (UK) Ltd, is the longest running competition sponsorship in domestic football; having sponsored the Carling Cup competition for nine seasons and the Worthington Cup for a further five.

162. According to its website, Carling's involvement with the Football League has supported fan interaction with the competition through initiatives such as "The Fan's Final"—with all of Carling's contractual tickets being made available to fans at the 2006 and 2007 finals and the introduction of fan perimeter designed boards at the 2009 Final.

163. The Premier League has organised the top-flight football competition in England since 1992. In that period attendances have grown by 60%. Media rights are now sold to every territory in the world, generating £1 bn per year and the Premier League has become the world's most-watched regular domestic sporting competition.

164. The Premier League website is sponsored by Budweiser which also sponsors the Fantasy Premier League component of the site. The Premier League website does not carry Budweiser advertising beyond the brand name and logo and a link to Budweiser's own site.

165. Of the teams in the Premier league only Everton FC is currently sponsored by an alcohol producer. Liverpool FC has recently announced that it will end it association with Carlsberg as its shirt sponsor from the end of the current football season in May 2010. Earlier this year Everton and the Thai-based Chang Beer struck a second sponsorship deal, valued at £8 million over three years. The current deal, worth £4.5 million, expires at the end of the season.[202]

166. There is little shirt sponsorship by alcohol companies. Within the last few years Tottenham Hotspur has ended its sponsorship arrangement with Holsten and Newcastle United, which until May 2009 was a premiership club, was sponsored by Newcastle Brown Ale, but is now sponsored by Northern Rock).

167. Commercial arrangements with alcohol companies include:

  • Pouring rights—the exclusive right to provide alcohol for sale at football grounds
  • Official supplier status—the right to be known as the official supplier to or commercial partner of a Club or the Premier League
  • Sponsor—the right to be recognised as a sponsor of the Club or the Premier League or of a specific Club or Premier League activity (such as sponsoring a website)
  • Shirt Sponsor—the right for the name of the company to appear on the team shirts
  • Advertising—the right to commercially acquire advertising space in Club or Premier League media, such as matchday programmes, pitchside displays, websites, and display boards at grounds.

Regulatory codes

168. The regulatory codes are described in the table below. Ofcom regulates television programme sponsorship. The ASA ('the UK self-regulatory for maintaining standards in advertising')[203] regulates advertising, including TV (excluding programme sponsorship), radio, press, poster, direct mail and paid-for advertising on the internet. The advertising codes are written and maintained by CAP and BCAP, which consist of representatives of broadcasting and advertising organisations.[204] Their membership is shown in the Box below. The Portman Group regulates packaging and various other forms of promotion, including sponsorship (excluding programme sponsorship), branded merchandise, press releases, and non-paid for advertising on the internet. In other words, the Portman Group seeks to regulate any marketing which is not otherwise regulated by Ofcom or the ASA.

169. David Poley, Chairman of the Portman group, told us that

"The regulatory system may appear fragmented but the division of responsibilities, however, is logical. The ASA regulates all advertising in 'paid-for' space; it cannot, for example, take over responsibility for regulating alcoholic drinks packaging without simultaneously taking on responsibility for regulating all product packaging including that of food, electrical goods, etc. The Portman Group, meanwhile, cannot for example take over responsibility for regulating alcohol advertising on TV because, apart from anything else, the ASA has a legal responsibility for this. This fragmentation does not mean, however, that there are necessarily any shortcomings with the present regulatory system."[205]

Table 4: Summary of UK regulatory system applying to drinks producers' marketing activities
—  Regulator —  Ofcom —  Advertising Standards Authority —  Portman Group
—  Remit: —  Television programme sponsorship


—  [Also broadcast editorial standards]

—  All advertising, e.g.:

—  ● television

—  ● radio

—  ● press

—  ● poster

—  ● cinema

—  ● direct mail

—  ● paid-for internet advertising

—  ● mobile phones (SMS and Bluetooth)

—  All other alcohol producer marketing activities, e.g.:

—  ● naming

—  ● packaging

—  ● sponsorship (excluding TV programme sponsorship)

—  ● sampling

—  ● press releases

—  ● brand websites

—  ● producer-generated point-of-sale materials

—  Nature of system: —  Statutory —  Co-regulatory (broadcast)

—  Self-regulatory (non-broadcast)

—  Self-regulatory
—  Rules written by: —  Ofcom —  BCAP, but approved by Ofcom (broadcast)

—  CAP (non-broadcast)

—  Portman Group
—  Adjudicating body: —  Ofcom —  Independent ASA Council chaired by the Rt Hon Lord Smith of Finsbury —  Independent Complaints Panel chaired by Sir Richard Tilt
—  Funded by: —  Government —  Advertising industry —  Drinks producers

Composition of the BCAP Committee

According to the ASA the BCAP is a listed company made up of: Advertising Association British Sky Broadcasting Limited Channel 4 Television Corporation Channel 5 Broadcasting Limited Clearcast Direct Marketing Association Electronic Retailing Association UK GMTV Limited Incorporated Society of British Advertisers Institute of Practitioners in Advertising ITV plc Radio Advertising Clearance Centre RadioCentre S4C Satellite & Cable Broadcasters' Group Teletext Limited Virgin Media TV

Composition of the CAP Committee

According to the ASA the CAP Committee is made up of: Advertising Association Cinema Advertising Association Clearcast Direct Marketing Association Direct Selling Association Directory and Database Publishers Association Incorporated Society of British Advertisers Institute of Practitioners in Advertising Institute of Sales Promotion Internet Advertising Bureau Mail Order Traders Association Mobile Broadband Group Mobile Marketing Association Newspaper Publishers Association Newspaper Society Outdoor Advertising Association Periodical Publishers Association Proprietary Association of Great Britain Radio Advertising Clearance Centre Royal Mail Scottish Daily Newspaper Society Scottish Newspaper Publishers Association

170. We were told that following the publication of the 2004 Alcohol Strategy, in 2005 Ofcom and the ASA strengthened both the broadcast and non-broadcast advertising codes significantly and the ASA was consulting again.[206]

171. The ASA told us that its rules were

exceptionally robust, especially in relation to the protection of young people and vulnerable groups. They were tightened significantly in October 2005, in response to the 2004 Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy, which suggested a possible link between young people's awareness and appreciation of alcohol advertising and their propensity to drink.[207]

The ASA added that it did not 'just wait for complaints to come in, but pro-actively monitors ads on a daily basis across all media for compliance with the Codes. It concentrates its activities on high profile sectors (such as alcohol) or sectors with low compliance'.[208] In addition, CAP provides a free pre-publication advice service for advertisers, agencies and media, called Copy Advice. The team dealt with about 225 alcohol ad queries in 2008.[209]

172. Advertisers that breach the Codes face financial loss from having an ad campaign pulled and damage to reputation through the publication of upheld adjudications, which attract media attention. Compliance with ASA adjudications is extremely high. For those few advertisers who refuse to comply, industry and other pressures can be brought to bear. For example, poster pre-vetting can be imposed and direct marketing companies can have benefits such as Royal Mail bulk mailing discounts removed. Although very rare, in serious cases of non-compliance, advertisers can be referred to the statutory authorities, for example to the OFT for action for unfair or misleading advertising, or to Ofcom for action against broadcasters.[210]

173. The Portman Group informed us:

The Portman Group's Code of Practice applies to the naming and packaging of alcoholic drinks and the promotional activities of drinks producers, including press releases, websites and sponsorship. It ensures that such activities are carried out in a socially responsible way.

All complaints made under our Code are heard by an Independent Complaints Panel. This Panel is chaired by Sir Richard Tilt, former Director General of the Prison Service; none of the Panel works in the alcohol industry.

Since the Code was introduced in 1996, over 70 drinks have been found to be in breach of the Code. Failure to comply with our Code results in a drink being removed from sale.[211]

The views of supporters of the existing regulatory regime

174. Supporters of the existing regulatory regime, which includes the drinks and advertising industries as well as the regulators, argue that

  • the codes work
  • the codes ensure that advertising is not 'targeted on young people'
  • the Sheffield University study of the effect of price and promotions on alcohol consumption shows advertising does not have much affect on sales: advertising is about persuading people to switch between brands.[212]

These views are much disputed.



175. The ASA and Ofcom argue that complaints about alcohol adverts are few and not many are upheld. The ASA told us that their guidelines were robust and there was not much of a problem. Guy Parker, the Chief Executive of ASA, told us: "we received just short of 400 complaints about advertising last year. Those complaints were not just about alleged problems under the specific and strict alcohol rules; most were complaints that ads were misleading or offensive under the general rules in the codes. Of those 400 complaints 200 related to alcohol ads or campaigns. Those 200 cases represent about 1% of the total and equate almost perfectly with the proportion spent on alcohol ads."[213]

176. He added that the vetting of adverts on TV and radio before they went out was a particularly effective way of ensuring that the codes were effective:

Our content, scheduling and placements rules are strict. They were further strengthened in 2005, in part as a result of the government's alcohol harm reduction strategy. We do a lot more besides just assessing and if necessary investigating and upholding complaints. TV and radio advertising, not just alcohol, is pre-cleared by two organisations: Clearcast and the radio advertising clearance centre. On the non-broadcast side we operate a copy advice service that gives a lot of advice to advertisers etc who want to check whether their ads and campaigns are okay under the rules. Last year we received over 200 written inquiries from alcohol advertisers and agencies wanting to make sure that their ads and campaigns complied with the rules, but we also put a lot of emphasis on the more proactive side of things, for example regular monitoring of all ads particularly those relating to alcohol. In 2006, 2007 and 2008 we undertook fairly extensive alcohol compliance surveys where we looked at a representative sample of alcohol ads and assessed them against the rules to check compliance. Compliance rates have varied a little. In 2006 the rate was 95%. That is the lower end of what we regard as acceptable. We put quite a lot of effort and resource in talking to the industry to explain where we think it is going wrong and how they can ensure that its ads and campaigns comply with the codes. The compliance rate picked up a bit in 2007; it was 97%."[214]

New Media

177. However, many witnesses recognised that regulations on "new marketing" (e.g text messaging, social network sites etc) were lax and needed tightening. The ASA informed us:

The ASA and the advertising industry are aware of the need to future-proof advertising self-regulation so that online marketing material is regulated with the same sense of social responsibility as in traditional media.[215]


178. The main focus of our evidence on sponsorship in this inquiry was football sponsorship. The Premiership defends its involvement with alcohol sponsors:

We consider that it is appropriate for the Premier League and its Clubs to be active in this market provided that full regard is given to both the spirit and letter of the relevant regulations. Although income from alcohol-related sources is only a small proportion of total revenues it contributes to the continuing economic success of professional football in England. Deloitte estimate that total revenues of the 92 professional Clubs in the Premier and Football Leagues were over £2.5bn in 2008/09. This income led to a contribution to Exchequer finances of around £860m in that year. It is likely that with continued growth in income and with changes in tax rates the Exchequer contribution will reach £1bn in 2010/11.

179. According to its submission, the Premier League and its clubs always seek to operate in a socially responsible manner:

We have a conservative interpretation of compliance with Portman Group and related codes, seeking to be clearly within the rules at all times. We do not test the boundaries of those rules nor do we lobby to have them changed. During the consultation around the question of alcohol branding on child-size replica shirts we noted the absence of any evidence linking such branding with alcohol consumption by the young but nevertheless fully comply with the subsequent changes to the Code.

The Football League told us:

I cannot comment on the exact amount because it is a commercially confidential contract, but it would be fair to say it is a significant seven-figure sum that we receive from our alcohol sponsor… It is about a third of our total sponsorship income.[216]

We only have one of our clubs that has an alcohol brand on its shirt, and that is Chesterfield. … We work very responsibly with them [Carling] to ensure that the messages they send out are targeted at people who are allowed to drink and it promotes sensible drinking. At the Football League we have a veto on anything that we would find inappropriate.[217]

the benefits that a sponsoring company gets are enhanced by the way they activate it. In our case we work very closely with our sponsors to make sure that sponsorship is activated responsibly and promotes messages about sensible drinking.[218]


180. There is widespread agreement that there must be effective controls on advertising to young people. A review by the advertising regulators Ofcom and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), published in October 2007, found that current controls have been effective in preventing advertising that is targeted at young people. However, it also found that young people were more likely to say that adverts made drinks look appealing and that they would encourage people to drink.[219]


181. The drinks industry claimed that the Sheffield study showed that marketing had little effect on sales, but the author of the report told us:

The focus of our attention on both adults and youngsters, rather than just young people. This is in recognition that advertising may play a larger role in influencing the continuation of drinking behaviours in existing consumers than in the inception of new drinker groups. From a population harm perspective, this distinction is crucially important. However the evidence base on advertising effects on adults is both smaller and weaker than for underage drinkers.

I think this explains why our evidence statements are overall more cautious than that of authors who focused on under-18s only.[220]

Evidence statement 5 of the Sheffield report: states:

There is conclusive evidence of a small but consistent association of advertising with consumption at a population level. There is also evidence of small but consistent effects of advertising on consumption of alcohol by young people at an individual level.[221]

The views of health experts

182. Several of the witnesses to our inquiry disagreed with the drinks industry and regulators. Their argument was that the codes are ineffective because the rules, albeit enforced by the ASA and others are not adequate to protect the young: the quantity rather than the content of advertising has greatest effect. This is particularly true for children. Moreover, advertising has a cumulative effect in the long term—even if sales don't show immediate response.


183. Even if the codes are followed, it does not necessarily mean that advertising does not encourage people to drink, especially young people. Professor Anderson, who has undertaken a review of studies of the links between consumption and advertising, noting that alcoholic drinks sales were driven by vast promotional and marketing campaigns, told us:

"Alcohol is marketed through increasingly sophisticated advertising in mainstream media, as well as through linking alcohol brands to sports and cultural activities, through sponsorships and product placements, and through direct marketing such as the Internet, podcasting and mobile telephones. The Science Group of the European Commission's Alcohol and Health Forum recently concluded that alcohol marketing increased the likelihood that non-drinking young people will start to drink, and the likelihood that existing young drinkers will drink in a more risky fashion."

According to the BMA too, a substantial body of research has found that alcohol advertising and promotion influences the onset, continuance and amount of alcohol consumption among young people.

184. Professor Foxcroft told us about a review of studies of the effects of alcohol advertising:

She [Dr Smith] concluded that the data from these studies included in the systematic reviews "suggest that exposure to alcohol advertising in young people influences their subsequent drinking behaviour. The effect was consistent across studies. A temporal relationship between exposure and drinking initiation was shown, and a dose response between amount of exposure and frequency of drinking was clearly demonstrated in three studies. It is certainly plausible that advertising would have an effect on youth consumer behaviour as has been shown for tobacco and food marketing."[222]

185. This evidence about the effects of the drinks industry's promotional activities on young people has been drawn from econometric and consumer studies. Early attempts to measure the impact of alcohol advertising on young people relied on econometric studies. These examined the correlation between the amount of advertising taking place in a particular jurisdiction and the amount of alcohol being consumed. These studies have mainly found little or no evidence of advertising influencing young people.[223]

186. Consumer studies examine advertising from the perspective of the young person, thus emulating the commercial marketer who uses consumer research to both guide the design of advertising and measure its effect on the target group. The measurement of effect involves looking for connections between exposure to, and appreciation of, advertising, and drinking knowledge, attitudes and behaviour. Such studies have shown consistent links between marketing communications and young people's drinking.[224]

187. In particular, longitudinal studies, which follow up respondents over time and are therefore capable of teasing out cause and effect, have demonstrated that advertising does encourage young people to drink sooner and more heavily. All the major forms of mass media advertising—press, television and billboards—have been found to have an effect. A longitudinal study currently being undertaken as part of the National Prevention Research Initiative (NPRI),[225] illustrates just how pervasive communications about alcohol have become. The research has interviewed a cohort of 1,000 teenagers at age 13 and again at 15 years old. Three quarters of the teenagers surveyed at age 13 were familiar with television advertisements, and two thirds sports sponsorship. Nearly half were found to own alcohol branded merchandise and, when shown masked prompts, the vast majority could name the leading brands: Carling (95%), Smirnoff (93%) and WKD (91%). Research conducted as part of the NPRI study illustrates the extent to which teenagers in the UK are aware of alcohol, alcohol brands and related communications (see figures 12 and 13 below).

Figure 12 - The impact of alcohol marketing communications on UK 13 year olds[226]

Source: *Unpublished data from Wave 1 of Hastings et al NPRI study; † Gordon R (2007) Alcohol marketing & youth drinking. 63rd Alcohol Problems Research Symposium, November 7-8, Kendal.

1 Respondents are shown colour pictures of five alcoholic drinks that have the name covered up. For each one, respondents are asked by the interviewer what make or brand they think it is.

Figure 13 - Analysis of marketing documents of drinks' industry and their advertising, new media and PR companies
Types of advertising seen 13 year olds (2006) 15 year olds (2008)
Sample size 920





Sports Sponsorship

Clothing (sports tops)

Music Sponsorship

Sponsorship of TV & Film

Social networking sites

Mobile communications


















Any channel96 97
Number of channels 5.56.0

188. The ASA/Ofcom review referred to above makes references to 'kidult marketing' which 'blurs the fixed lines between adults and children' and to 'alcohol advertisements that play on the boundary of adult and teenage behaviour to bring the teenage and adult world closer together appear to have strong appeal for young people'.[227]


189. In view of concerns raised about the effect of the marketing activities of the industry, we sought from the producers, their advertising agencies, PR companies and new media companies internal marketing documents relating to a number of campaigns. We asked Prof Hastings to analyse these documents and his analysis is published as a memorandum.

190. Professor Hastings found that the documents:

reveal major shortcomings in the current self regulatory codes covering alcohol advertising. Specifically, the codes do not, as they are supposed to, protect young people from alcohol advertising; prevent the promotion of drunkenness and excess; or the linking of alcohol with social and sexual success. Nor do they even attempt to address sponsorship, and the documents show this is being systematically used to undermine rules prohibiting the linking of alcohol with youth culture and sporting prowess. Finally, the codes are extremely weak in their treatment of new media which are rapidly become the biggest channel for alcohol promotion.

The result is a regulatory system that is impossible to police and vulnerable to exploitation.[228]

191. We took oral evidence from some of the organisations which supplied the documents. We were particularly concerned about documents which implied that campaigns set out to get people drunk—'Pub Man's needs' seemingly include turning into a comatose 'Alpha Male' and 'shots' are 'used to crank up the evening' and 'to get blasted'. In the evidence sessions the witnesses from the organisations dismissed these charts as ideas that were rejected at the planning stage.[229]

192. The Committee was also concerned that the Advertising Codes' prescription of any association of drinking with masculinity was being broken by a planning document for an alcopops called WKD which was headed 'Male Targeting' and talked about ways to communicate maleness and personality. This led to the following exchange with one witness who attempted to parse the difference between maleness and masculinity:

Sandra Gidley: Turning to page 19, that is a planning brief from earlier this year. This is again the WKD brand. The importance of advertising and campaigns to communicate maleness and personality. Under the code you are not allowed to use masculinity. What is the difference between masculinity and maleness?

Ms Carter: What you need to understand is that RTD [Ready To Drink] as a category has always been predominantly very female focused in terms of a lot of the brands being targeted at women. We saw that there was an opportunity to bring to market a product that had male appeal. For us, it is not about being overtly female as opposed to overtly male. For example, we would not ever do a promotional link with makeup. That is why we would associate with the Nuts football awards that my colleague spoke about earlier. It is about engaging with our male consumers in things that they are interested in.

Sandra Gidley: What is the difference between masculinity and maleness?

Ms Carter: You can be involved in areas that males are interested in without overtly saying, "I, WKD, am a male product." To communicate maleness would be the Nuts football awards. Nuts is part of the male press so that is an opportunity for us to talk to male readers. The fact that it is in a male piece of media means that it is not viewed as being overtly female or girlie.

Sandra Gidley: Why does it not fall into the masculinity category? I am struggling to find the dividing line between maleness and masculinity.

Ms Carter: What we are talking about is that often maleness can be placed into the media. It does not have to be us creatively talking about maleness. It can be the Nuts football awards, using male press. Communicating maleness can be done by using male platforms as opposed to a creative look that says, "I am a male brand."

Sandra Gidley: Is this not in effect though a brief that says, "Go as far down the maleness route as you can without breaching the masculinity code. Push it a bit"?

Ms Carter: No, not push it a bit at all. We operate within the codes and the codes are there for a reason. We welcome them because they give us a framework to work within."[230]

We also asked whether the same brands sponsorship of the Nuts football awards contravened both the masculinity/femininity rule and another rule saying alcohol can not be associated with sporting success. WKD's representative denied that there was any problem:

"Charlotte Atkins: I thought that there was some sort of ASA code which actually talked about not linking up with sport, sex and so on. Would that linkage not transgress those codes?

Ms Fuke: The initiative we are talking about is a sponsorship and the sponsorship is not focused on the brand itself but it is sponsorship of football awards and Nuts football awards are about sponsoring or encouraging people to engage with football and we simply support that and this sponsorship initiative is managed through equally important guidelines, so a marketing activity would be related to that in terms of content, style and tone.

Charlotte Atkins: But you are aware that there is a code which suggests—in fact forbids the association of alcohol with sporting success and with masculinity and sex.

Ms Fuke: This is not about sporting success and masculinity; this is awards which are irreverent that the fans make to the people who have played all through an injury or the best chant on the terraces.

Charlotte Atkins: So basically it is a way of linking up with football without transgressing the code?

Ms Fuke: I am sorry?

Charlotte Atkins: It is a way of linking up men's obsession with football without transgressing the code?

Ms Fuke: I do not believe it conflicts with the code, no."[231]

193. Our other major concern was that protection for young people was inadequate. In the Committee's evidence session of 9 July Howard Stoate MP showed that controls on accessing sites such as Smirnoff and creating user-generated content were lax.

Q632 Dr Stoate: Are you at all worried about the fact that children clearly are able to access this with no difficulty whatsoever? So far as you are concerned, that is fine; whether they should or not is irrelevant; you think it is okay that they do.

Mr Gill: No, because the content that is there is for adults only, and that is within the framework and the best working example that everybody has in the industry, not just in the UK or in alcohol, but globally, that is until such point where we can get national identity, perhaps, or biometrics scanning that actually proves that you are over 18.

Dr Stoate: That is clearly nonsense, because anybody can get access to it who wants to, even with a date of birth that does not exist. It certainly does not give me confidence. I think this committee will certainly be taking a view on whether we think the situation is tough enough. Thank you very much, Chairman.


194. Witnesses who believed that existing controls on marketing were inadequate proposed two main solutions

  • A ban on many forms of marketing
  • More effective controls, in particular restrictions on new media and an end to the system of self-regulation.

195. Several witnesses, including the President of the RCP, Professor Anderson and the BMA, proposed a ban on advertising and sponsorship along the lines of the 'Loi Evin' in France. We went on a short visit there to see how effective the ban in France had been. The key aspects of the French legislation, which has been in place since 1991, are

  • no advertising is allowed on television or in cinemas;
  • no sponsorship of cultural or sport events is permitted;
  • advertising is permitted only in the press for adults, on billboards, on radio channels (under precise conditions), at special events or places such as wine fairs, wine museums.

196. However, no thorough evaluation has been carried out of the effectiveness of the ban so it is not known whether the ban has directly contributed to fall in alcohol consumption in France. Alcohol consumption in France was falling before the Loi Evin and is still falling, but the rate of fall has not changed.

197. An additional problem is that new media is increasing in France as elsewhere and is difficult to control.

198. As we have seen, the drinks industry argued that the Sheffield study showed there was no case for a ban. We questioned Dr Meier who said that the evidence was too weak to come to a conclusion:

"In terms of interventions, codes and bans are typically designed to protect young people and any effects of bans on adults remain largely unknown. In practice, only France has introduced a comprehensive ban but no convincing evaluation was carried out.[232]

199. The Sheffield report stated

There is an ongoing methodological debate on how advertising effects can and should be investigated and there is also a need for further research to establish whether advertising definitely influences consumption. We should have a clearer picture of the effectiveness of current UK controls on alcohol advertising when phase 2 of the ScHARR review is complete. At that point, the Government as a whole will consider whether there is a need for further action.

200. As we have seen, the Sheffield report was concerned with the population as a whole; Professor Gilmore, Professor Anderson and the BMA pointed out that tighter controls on the amount of alcohol advertising will protect young people—and as the Sheffield report itself notes, the effects of advertising are greater on this group.

201. In view of the French ban on the alcohol industry's sponsorship of sporting and other events, we questioned the Minister and the Premier League and Football League about sponsorship. In July, the Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe MP indicated to the Committee that he was not persuaded of the need to impose restrictions on alcohol advertising of sport. We questioned him about the possibility of a ban on shirt sponsorship.

Q940 Chairman: One of the codes that people are supposed to use states that we should not associate alcohol with sporting success. Why would somebody sponsor a shirt of a Premier League football team if it was not to show that their product, no matter what it is, is concerned with the success of the football team as opposed to Bradford City, I suppose, or Rotherham United? Why would anybody sponsor a team in the football premiership if it was not to relate to sporting success, given that is where the shirt sponsorship is?

Mr Sutcliffe: I accept that they want to advertise their product. Is the next step then to say to Premiership League teams that they cannot have shirt sponsorship? Are we trying to affect the ability of clubs to bring in sponsorship? I think you have to be careful here. I take Howard's point that if the evidence overwhelmingly proves a situation, then the Government has to act, but again we have to have the evidence that proves that. My consistent phrase today is proportionality and making sure that we do the right thing.

Q941 Chairman: But we have evidence on tobacco and advertising was banned throughout the United Kingdom. Has it worked?

Mr Sutcliffe: That evidence was clear and it was clear that that was the obviously route to forward.

Q945 Chairman: You do not think that having a product on a Premier League football team shirt is advertising? Although I may watch it on my television, you do not describe that as advertising?

Mr Sutcliffe: Not in the way that you are suggesting, that it affects young people.

Q946 Chairman: What is it then?

Mr Sutcliffe: It is a sponsorship of that team, is it not?

Q947 Chairman: The named brand is there to see. Is it brand promotion? Is brand promotion not advertising? What is it?

Mr Sutcliffe: Clearly it is advertising in the context of sponsorship of that brand. I think the argument here is: does that affect and go outside what is a very strong code in relation to Ofcom and the ASA? Clearly, I am suggesting that we will reinforce the discussions with Ofcom and the ASA about that point and report back to the committee.


202. Two issues were of particular concern As we have seen, there is considerable concern about the effect of new media on the young.[233] We questioned Gerry Sutcliffe MP (Minister of Sport) about this. He rejected proposals to bring closer legal constraint on digital marketing:

I accept the new media that there and that technology will develop even further in the years to come. DCMS have been looking at Digital Britain and what is likely to happen. As a government, we have continued to encourage voluntary codes. We do not feel that there is at this stage the need to go further but it is something we keep under review and we will obviously reflect on what this committee and others have to say to us.[234]

203. Dr Meier argued that there needed to be more research about the effect of marketing on the young:

"There is a large evidence base […] around established channels such as the mass media but a shortage of studies evaluating newer media such as the internet and mobile phones. Generally, the vast array of channels and of types of promotional activity (Jernigan and O'Hara 2004) make it difficult to isolate individual effects, and thus target individual strategies, even though they consistently demonstrate an aggregative effect. Policy options should therefore recognise where a common underpinning mechanism exists and apply general principles to target such a mechanism in anticipation of new channels rather than continually attempt to respond to specific evidence on every new medium."[235]

Several witnesses told us that the system of self regulation had to end:

Given the impact of alcohol misuse on health in the UK, the fact that advertising encourages young people to start drinking and increases their consumption of alcohol, the Alliance feels that decisions on broadcast advertising are too important to be left to a cabal of industry representatives. The Government must review the structure of advertising regulation in the UK—decisions should be made by a transparently accountable public body with strong representation from the health community.

Professor Anderson added:

The effects of advertising exposure seem cumulative: young people who are more exposed are more likely to continue to increase their drinking as they move into their mid-twenties, while drinking declines at an earlier age in those who are less exposed. The international evidence and experience do not suggest that self-regulation implemented by advertising, media and alcohol producers prevents the types and content of marketing that impact on younger people.[236]

Conclusions and recommendations

204. The current system of controls on alcohol advertising and promotion is failing the young people it is intended to protect. The problem is more the quantity of advertising and promotion than its content. This has led public health experts to call for a ban. It is clear that both the procedures and the scope need to be strengthened.


205. The regulation of alcohol promotion should be completely independent of the alcohol and advertising industries; this would match best practice in other fields such as financial services and professional conduct. In addition young people should themselves be formally involved in the process of regulation: the best people to judge what a particular communication is saying are those in the target audience.


206. The current controls do not adequately cover sponsorship, a key platform for alcohol promotion; the codes must be extended to fill this gap. The enquiry also heard how dominant new media are becoming in alcohol promotion and the particular regulatory challenges they present, including the inadequacy of age controls and the problems presented by user generated content. Expert guidance should therefore be sought on how to improve the protection offered to young people in this area.

207. Finally, there is a pressing need to restrict alcohol advertising and promotion in places where children are likely to be affected by it. Specifically:

—  Billboards and posters should not be located within 100 metres of any school (there used to be a similar rule for tobacco).

—  A nine o'clock watershed should be introduced for television advertising. (The current restrictions which limit advertising around children's programming fail to protect the relatively larger proportions of children who watch popular programmes such as soaps).

—  Cinema advertising for alcohol should be restricted to films classified as 18.

—  No medium should be used to advertise alcoholic drinks if more than 10% of its audience/readership is under 18 years of age (the current figure is 25%).

—  No event should be sponsored if more than 10% of those attending are under 18 years of age

—  There must be more effective ways of restricting young people's access to new media which promote alcohol

—  Alcohol promotion should not be permitted on social networking sites.

—  Notwithstanding the inadequacies of age restrictions on websites, they should be required on any site which includes alcohol promotion—this would cover the sites of those receiving alcohol sponsorship. This rule should also be extended to corporate alcohol websites. Expert guidance should be sought on how to make these age controls much more effective.

—  Alcohol advertising should be balanced by public health messaging. Even a small adjustment would help: for example, for every five television ads an advertiser should be required to fund one public health advertisement.

195   2002: £167 million; 2005: £221million; 2006: £194 million (Nielsen Media 2006, as cited by Ofcom & ASA 2007; year ending June 2007: £172.7m (Nielsen Media Research cited in the Key Note Ltd (2008) Drinks Market report-total main media advertising expenditure on alcohol) Back

196, p.129. and see WHO report  Back

197   Nielsen Media 2006, as cited by Ofcom & ASA 2007 Back

198   BMA, Under the Influence, 2009. Back

199   Market data on sports sponsorship collected by Ipsos MORI (Key Note 2007b). Back

200   Source: Key Note Ltd (2007) Sports Sponsorship. Market Report November 2007. Hampton: Key Note Ltd. Back

201   According to the Football league it receives a seven-figure sum from its sponsor ('It is about a third of our total sponsorship income'), QQ 1268-9. Back

202 Back

203   Ev 145 Back

204   Ev 146 Back

205   Ev 34A Back

206   Ev 146-9 Back

207   Ev 146 Back

208   Ev 148 Back

209   Ev 147 Back

210   Ev 148 Back

211   Ev 125 Back

212   Ev 125 Back

213   Q 460 Back

214   Q 461 Back

215   Ev 149 Back

216   QQ 1268-9 Back

217   Q 1262 Back

218   Q 1267 Back

219   ASA/Ofcom, Young People and Alcohol Advertising: An investigation of alcohol advertising following changes to the Advertising Code, 2007, p 9. Back

220   AL 62A Back

221   See also evidence statements 7 and 8 of the report. Back

222   Q 609 Back

223   BMA, Under the Influence, 2009, p 18 Back

224   Ibid. Back

225   Ibid., pp19-20.  Back

226   Ibid., p 20. Back

227   Op. cit., pp 50-1. Back

228   AL 81 Back

229   Q 847 Back

230   QQ 867-870 Back

231   QQ 700-703 Back

232   Ev 62 Back

233   Ev 42 Back

234   Q 935 Back

235   Ev 62A Back

236   AL 58 Back

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