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It’s tricky with self-regulation - alcohol marketing in the FIFA World Cup

Eurocare French member ANPAA launched on the occasion of the World Cup campaign ‘Be our eyes’. This operation aimed at collecting pictures showcasing the link between sport and alcohol. The result has highlighted an overexposure to advertisements of alcohol.

ANPAA collected more than 230 pictures, they are all published on its Flickr page to showcase that self-regulation promises of the alcohol industry are a vast deception.

The results of the operation "Be our eyes" launched by ANPAA present a rich lesson in marketing practices:

  • The major alcohol brands have used the World Cup to advertise on a large scale - billboards, internet, press and social networks - with a more or less subtle link between alcohol and football. Some have sometimes played the card of internationality (the various countries of the world for instance ‘the meetings of beers’ from different countries) sometimes patriotism (red white blue, word games with the color "blue").
  • Most major retailers have contributed significantly to the association of alcohol with FIFA World Cup, organising contests, dedicating spaces to the World Cup located at the entrance of the stores or near the alcohol crates and putting the marks of beers in the spotlight as well as distributing leaflets mixing references to the World Cup and promotions for alcohol.
  • Social networks - especially Facebook - and the application of newspaper L'Equipe have been full of unwanted alcohol advertisements that are imposed on the user, which is forbidden by article L3323-9 of the French Health Code. Unfortunately, there is no way to report this illegal content to Facebook. 

If there was a World Cup for ‘how to break Loi Evin’ it would probably go to Carrefour, which encourages on its Facebook page "young and old" to consume excessively, while spreading a message of "prevention" (alcohol in moderation please, or sleep on the spot, <adding a wink smiley face>

Finally, this overexposure was verified in the field. As the competition was taking place in Russia, one could observe multiple occurrences of advertising for the brand Bud, sponsor of the 2018 World Cup, during the matches broadcasted on French television. At the end of the final, the brand was also eager to use the French victory to promote its beer.

These finding are particularly worrying because the revised Audiovisual Media Services Directive as proposed by the European Commission back in 2016, is encouraging even more self-regulation across Europe.

Art 9 states:
Member States are encouraged to use co-regulation and to foster self-regulation through codes of conduct as provided for in Article4a(1) regarding inappropriate audiovisual commercial communications for alcoholic beverages.Those codes shall aim to effectively limit the exposure of minors to audiovisual commercial communications for alcoholic beverages

Under the current rules in Art 22 of AVMSD from 2010, advertising and teleshopping for alcoholic beverages ‘shall not link the consumption of alcohol to enhanced physical performance or to driving’; and ‘shall not create the impression that the consumption of alcohol contributes towards social or sexual success’.

However, definitions of what constitutes an ‘impression’ or a ‘link’ are open to interpretation and legal disputes. With the revised AVMSD promoting self-regulation, it can be assumed that the link between alcohol marketing and sports will not be broken for decades to come.

Sources used: Autorégulation des pratiques marketing en matière d’alcool : l’opération « Coupe du monde » de l’ANPAA met en lumière la supercherie

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