A row over advertising alcohol rules in the UK has recently erupted between alcohol sponsors and medical bodies and charities. The health campaigners as well as The Alcohol Health Alliance which includes the British Medical Association have called for the alcohol marketing rules in the UK to be changed to reflect those of the system used in France. The French system means that alcohol cannot be advertised if children are a large proportion of the viewing audience, meaning alcohol sponsorship has been banned during many music and sporting events as well as from television advertisements. Although, many TV programmes which are popular with a younger audience such as soap operas are exempt from restrictions as the majority of their audience are adults.
The claims made for the change in alcohol marketing and sponsorship have been based around the opinion that current regulations do not protect children and encourage early drinking by youngsters. These claims have been strongly dismissed by advertising body ISBA. The ISBA represents well-known alcohol companies including Bacardi-Martini and Heineken. The advertising body have criticised evidence presented by health campaigners in a bid to support stricter regulation including an Ofcom study that suggests that for every five 24-year-olds who watched a television alcohol advert, four 10 year olds saw the same ad.
The impact on sports sponsorship would also be extensive as major 2012 summer sporting events are sponsored by alcohol brands, the Euro 2012 is currently being sponsored by Carlsberg and the Olympics are to be sponsored by Heineken. The Irish government has now committed to phasing out alcohol sponsorship at sports events.
Further evidence submitted relates to the growing burden of alcohol related social issues on society, an issue which leads to the loss of around 15,000 lives every year. Recent evidence presented to MPs showed that alcohol is the leading cause of death amongst young men, accounting for 27% of fatalities in the 16-24 age group.
Despite the evidence presented by health campaigners and medical bodies the UK government has ruled out suggested changes to alcohol marketing regulations, suggesting that there is insufficient evidence available to strengthen regulations. However the governments are planning to work with the Advertising Standards Association to work on a method to measure the impact of alcohol advertising on consumption.
It is likely that this announcement will come as a huge relief to alcohol Brand Managers as any change in regulation would drastically affect their brand marketing and advertising strategy.
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