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Ads from sports broadcasts significantly increase alcohol urges says new ECU study

Ads from sports broadcasts significantly increase alcohol urges says new ECU study

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New Edith Cowan University (ECU) research shows exposure to alcohol advertisements during national sports broadcasts, particularly those that feature a preferred beverage, significantly increases cravings in people with risky drinking behaviours.


The ECU study, led by Dr Ross Hollett (pictured), analysed nationally televised finals matches from the Australian Football League (AFL) and the National Rugby League (NRL) to determine the frequency of alcohol advertising. Researchers also conducted an online experiment exposing 345 participants to a randomly selected alcohol advertisement and measured the immediate effects on self-reported alcohol craving and drinking intentions.

Key findings:
• The content analysis of nationally televised AFL and NRL matches revealed that alcohol advertisements comprised a small but notable fraction of all ads (3.9% in AFL and 1.85% in NRL).
• An online experiment showed that overall exposure to these advertisements had a minimal impact on the general population’s drinking intentions and cravings.
• However, a significant increase in alcohol cravings was observed among risky drinking participants, particularly those with a preference for the advertised beverage.

Dr Hollett said: “Understanding the influence of alcohol advertisements during popular sports broadcasts is crucial for public health awareness.

“The high viewership of national sports in Australia, for example 4 million viewers for the 2021 Australian Football League (AFL) grand final, shows the reach of alcohol advertisements during these events and their potential to increase consumption while undermining other health messaging efforts.”

Dr Hollett called for targeted health messaging during sport broadcasts to address this at-risk group effectively and highlighted the need for nuanced public health strategies in the context of alcohol advertising.

He added: “Our findings highlight the specific vulnerability of risky drinkers to alcohol advertisements, despite the overall low impact on the broader audience.”

“This insight is vital for developing effective health campaigns and regulatory policies aimed at reducing alcohol-related harm, especially where such advertisements are prevalent.”

The study ‘Exposure to preference-matched alcohol advertisements from national sports broadcasts increases short-term alcohol consumption inclinations in risky drinkers’ is published in the Health Promotion Journal of Australia.