Exposure of African American Youth to Alcohol Advertising

  • June 19, 2003

The marketing of alcohol products in African American communities has, on occasion, stirred national controversy and met with fierce resistance from African Americans and others. Charges of over-concentration of alcohol billboards in African American neighborhoods have prompted protests and legislative fights in Chicago, Milwaukee, Baltimore, Los Angeles and elsewhere.1 Battles over the heavy marketing to the African American community of malt liquor, a stronger-than-average beer, resulted in the banning of one new brand, PowerMaster, in the summer of 1991, and fines against the makers of another, St. Ides Malt Liquor, by the states of New York and Oregon, for advertising practices that allegedly targeted youth and glamorized gang activity.

These local actions have also extended to efforts to reduce the availability of alcohol by restricting or shutting down alcohol outlets in numerous cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles and Oakland. They have garnered occasional attention in the mainstream news media and prominent spokespersons such as former Surgeon General Antonia Novello, who made the issue of alcohol marketing in African American and Hispanic communities a focus during her tenure.

Despite these occasional media and community spotlights on the marketing of alcohol products in the African American community, there has been no systematic review of the industry's advertising directed to the nation's second-largest minority. The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) commissioned Virtual Media Resources (VMR) to audit the exposure of African American youth to alcohol advertising in magazines and on radio and television in 2002. In previous reports, the Center has found widespread and pervasive overexposure of all youth to alcohol advertising in magazines and on television and radio. In this context of youth being more likely than adults to see much of alcohol advertising, this analysis compares the exposure of African American youth to that of non-African American youth, and the Center finds that African American youth were even more overexposed to alcohol advertising than non-African American youth.