Alcohol Advertising and Youth

  • August 16, 2005

Research clearly indicates that, in addition to parents and peers, alcohol advertising and marketing have a significant impact on youth decisions to drink.

"While many factors may influence an underage person's drinking decisions, including among other things parents, peers and the media, there is reason to believe that advertising also plays a role." (Federal Trade Commission, Self-Regulation in the Alcohol Industry, 1999)1

Parents and peers have a large impact on youth decisions to drink. However, research clearly indicates that alcohol advertising and marketing also have a significant impact by influencing the attitudes of parents and peers and helping to create an environment that promotes underage drinking. 

  • A study on alcohol advertising in magazines from 1997 to 2001 found that the number of beer and distilled spirits ads tended to increase with a magazine's youth readership. For every 1 million underage readers ages 12-19 in a magazine, researchers generally found 1.6 times more beer advertisements and 1.3 times more distilled spirits advertisements.2 

  • A study of eighth-graders showed that those with greater exposure to alcohol advertisements in magazines, on television, and at sporting and music events were more aware of the advertising and more likely to remember the advertisements they had seen.3 

  • A study of 12-year-olds found that children who were more aware of beer advertising held more favorable views on drinking and expressed an intention to drink more often as adults than did children who were less knowledgeable about the ads.4 

  • A federally-funded study of 1,000 young people found that exposure to and liking of alcohol advertisements affects whether young people will drink alcohol.5 

  • Another study found that, among a group of 2,250 middle-school students, those who viewed more television programs containing alcohol commercials while in the seventh grade were more likely in the eighth grade to drink beer, wine/liquor, or to drink three or more drinks on at least one occasion during the month prior to the follow-up survey.6 

  • An economic analysis assessed the effects of alcohol advertising on youth drinking behaviors by comparing federally reported levels of youth drinking with detailed reports on alcohol advertising in local markets during the same years. The analysis concluded that a complete ban on alcohol advertising could reduce monthly levels of youth drinking by 24% and youth binge drinking by about 42%.7 

  • A 1996 study of children ages nine to 11 found that children were more familiar with Budweiser's television frogs than Kellogg's Tony the Tiger, the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, or Smokey the Bear.8 

  • The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth found that, from 2001 though 2003, youth in the United States were 96 times more likely per capita to see an ad promoting alcohol than an industry ad discouraging underage drinking.9 In fact, compared to underage youth, adults age 21 and over were nearly twice as likely per capita to see advertising discouraging underage drinking.10 

  • A USA Today survey found that teens say ads have a greater influence on their desire to drink in general than on their desire to buy a particular brand of alcohol.11 

  • Eighty percent of general public respondents in a poll by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms believed "that alcohol advertising influences youth to drink alcoholic beverages."12 Another poll, done for an alcohol-industry-funded organization called the Century Council, found that 73% of the public believes that "alcohol advertising is a major contributor to underage drinking."13 

  • The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) recognizes the influence advertising can have on youth: "[T]he impact of advertising on radio and television audiences, particularly kids, cannot be overstated. Clever jingles, flashy lights, fast talking, and quick pacing, all contribute to the message of commercials."14 

  • $1.79 billion was spent on alcohol advertising in measured media (television, radio, print, outdoor, major newspapers and Sunday supplements) in 2003.15 Working from alcohol company documents submitted to them, the Federal Trade Commission estimated in 1999 that the alcohol industry's total expenditures to promote alcohol (including through sponsorship, Internet advertising, point-of-sale materials, product placement, brand-logoed items and other means) were three or more times its expenditures for measured media advertising.16 This would mean that the alcohol industry spent a total of $5.37 billion or more on advertising and promotion in 2003.

    Updated July 2005

    1Federal Trade Commission, Self-Regulation in the Alcohol Industry: A Review of Industry Efforts to Avoid Promoting Alcohol to Underage Consumers (Washington, DC: Federal Trade Commission, 1999), 4.
    2C.F. Garfield, P.J. Chung, P.J. Rathouz, "Alcohol Advertising in Magazines and Youth Readership," The Journal of the American Medical Association 289, no. 18 (May 14, 2003): 2424-2429.
    3R.L. Collins, T. Schell, P.L. Ellickson, and D. McCaffrey, "Predictors of beer advertising awareness among eighth graders," Addiction 98 (2003): 1297-1306.
    4J.W. Grube, "Television alcohol portrayals, alcohol advertising and alcohol expectancies among children and adolescents," in Effects of the Mass Media on the Use and Abuse of Alcohol, eds. S.E. Martin and P. Mail (Bethesda, MD: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 1995), 105-121.
    5J.W. Grube, "
    Alcohol advertising–a study of children and adolescents: preliminary results," (Accessed 19 Nov 2003).
    6A.W. Stacy, J.B. Zogg, J.B. Unger, and C.W. Dent, "Exposure to Televised Alchool Ads and Subsequent Adolescent Alcohol Use," American Journal of Health Behavior 28, no. 6 (2004): 498-509.
    7H. Saffer and D. Dave,
     Alcohol Advertising and Alcohol Consumption by Adolescents, Working Paper 9676 (Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research, May 2003), (accessed 19 Nov 2003).
    8L. Leiber, Commercial and Character Slogan Recall by Children Aged 9 to 11 Years: Budweiser Frogs versus Bugs Bunny (Berkeley: Center on Alcohol Advertising, 1996).
    9Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, Untitled Brochure (Washington, DC: Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, 2005).
    10Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, Unpublished analysis using TNS Media Intelligence and Nielsen Media Research, 2005.
    11B. Horovitz, M. Wells, "Ads for adult vices big hit with teens," USA Today (31 January 1997): News 1A.
    12Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Executive Summary of Findings of Research Study of the Public Opinion Concerning Warning Labels on Containers of Alcoholic Beverages (Washington, DC: BATF, 1988), 14, cited in U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, Youth and Alcohol: Controlling Alcohol Advertising that Appeals to Youth (Washington, DC: Department of Health and Human Services, October 1991), 2.
    13Century Council, "Poll shows many people believe industry encourages teen drinking," Alcohol Issues Insights 8 no. 8 (3 August 1991).
    14Cited in U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, Youth and Alcohol: Controlling Alcohol Advertising that Appeals to Youth, 2.
    15TNS Media Intelligence; Spending on radio from Miller-Kaplan Associates.
    16Federal Trade Commission, Self-Regulation in the Alcohol Industry, Appendix B: Alcohol Advertising Expenditures, iii.