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Young people in the UK are being exposed to excessive alcohol advertisements during televised sporting events, which could lead to increased alcohol consumption in under 16s, according to new research from the University of Nottingham.
The results of the study, published 7th of August 2020 in the BMJ Open, showed that during all 21 races in the 2018 F1 Championship, which aired on Channel 4, alcohol adverts were shown, leaving millions of children and young people exposed to alcohol imagery.
Previous research has shown that exposure to this type of imagery is associated with subsequent alcohol use among young people, and UK broadcasting regulations protect young people from advertising and alcohol content on UK television. However, alcohol promotion during sporting events is currently unregulated.
With this in mind, a team of experts from the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies in the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of Nottingham, undertook an analysis of the UK population’s exposure to alcohol content, including branding, during the television broadcast of the 2018 F1 Championship.
The team carried out an in-depth content analysis of the broadcast footage of the 21 (2018) F1 Championship races on Channel 4, using one-minute interval coding of any alcohol content shown, wither actual or implied use, other related content or branding. The team then used viewing figures and population estimates to estimate overall and individual alcohol impressions – separate incidents seen – by age group.
The results showed that alcohol content occurred in all races, in 1,613 (56%) one-minute intervals of race footage and 44 (9%) of intervals across 28% of advertisement breaks. The most prominent content was branding, occurring in 51% of race intervals and 7% of advertisement break intervals, appearing predominantly on billboard advertisements around the track, with the Heineken and Johnnie Walker brands being particularly prominent.
The 21 races delivered an estimated 3.9 billion alcohol gross impressions to the UK population, including 154 million (95% CI 124 - 184) to children under the age of 16; and 3.6 billion alcohol gross impressions of alcohol branding, including 141 million impressions to children. Branding was also shown in race footage from countries where alcohol promotion is prohibited.
Dr Alex Barker, the lead author of the study, said: “Our study clearly shows that alcohol content was highly prevalent throughout the 2018 F1 Championship broadcasts. This is worrying given the young viewers this branded content would have reached. Previous research has already show that advertising of this kind can lead to alcohol consumption in young people, and this is one of many sporting events that uses advertising in this way. We would urge Ofcom to consider the implications of this, and whether restrictions need to be put on this kind of advertising.”
Mariann Skar, Secretary General in Eurocare said: “This article shows a high degree of exposure of alcohol advertisement during sport events. Both the sport sector and Member States need to take further action to prevent exposure of alcohol advertisement to minors during these events”.
The European Alcohol Policy Alliance (Eurocare) has been following the issue of advertisement in Formula 1 over a long period of time. You can find more information about this in the report Alcohol advertising and sponsorship in formula one: a dangerous cocktail.