Alcohol is one of the most significant ‘fast moving consumer goods’ (FMCGs) marketed today. It is estimated that each year more than £800 million is spent on advertising alcoholic beverages in the UK, with the global estimate approximating $1 trillion. Alcohol marketing is prevalent in traditional media such as TV adverts and billboards and, increasingly, in new media such as online social networking sites, and also through sponsorships and point of sale promotions.
There is much debate about alcohol marketing and the extent to which it should be controlled. Research shows that exposure of children and young people to alcohol marketing materials leads them to drink at an earlier age and to drink more than they otherwise would. The World Health Organisation states: “the extent and breadth of commercial communications on alcohol and their impact, particularly on young people’s drinking, should not be underestimated”.
Alcohol advertising in the UK is already subject to controls that seek to prevent advertisers targeting and appealing to young people. The controls cover broadcast, print and online advertising and are a mix of co-regulation (with OFCOM) and self-regulation, administered by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and the Portman Group. The Portman Code covers marketing such as sponsorship, promotion and product packaging. The current regulatory system and codes of conduct have been criticised for failing to protect children and young people from exposure to alcohol marketing and many health groups have called for greater restrictions to be introduced, such as those that are in place in France under the 'Loi Evin'.
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