In our homes, children may be bombarded different types of alcohol marketing, to name a few -

  • advertising or sponsorship in movies, TV or radio,
  • alcohol promotion within TV & radio programmes (e.g. music video),
  • alcohol marketing on social media,
  • alcohol products and alcohol branded merchandise.

A US study [21] compared exposure to alcohol marketing and family factors in predicted adolescent alcohol use. This includes alcohol onset and progression to binge drinking. The study found that the following factors were associated with alcohol onset as well as transition to binge drinking:

  • High exposure to alcohol marketing in movies, 
  • Possession of alcohol-branded merchandise in homes,
  • age and rebelliousness.

In addition to the above, the study also found that availability of alcohol and parental drinking predicted alcohol onset but not the transition to binge drinking1. It is important to highlight that other factors may influence adolescent’s progression to binge drinking, these include relationship with parents, peers influence, greater involvement in drinking culture attachment to family, school, community and society  [22].

Exposure of alcohol advertising on social media

The introduction of digital technologies has opened up new platforms for marketing and promotion. Alcohol companies aggressively use the new digital platforms in particular social media (Facebook, Instagram, etc.) and user-generated contents on social media. In 2011, for example, two major alcohol companies announced their plan to increase their digital spend on social media [23]. Bacardi planned to shift up to 90% of its digital spend to Facebook and Diageo expressed their multi-million dollar partnership with Facebook. Accordingly, by 2012, alcohol brands had the highest engagement rate on Facebook [24].  Worldwide, there were 1,017 company-sponsored alcohol-brand related sites on Facebook in 2012 [25]. In Australia, the top 20 alcohol brands in Australia had more than 2.5 million followers on their Facebook pages [26].  In 2012, hosts of these pages generated more than 4,500 items of contents where followers interacted with them by liking, sharing or commenting on them for more them 2.3 million times [25].

Young adults are highly active on social media in engaging with their friends or socialising. As such, exposure of alcohol advertising on social media can encourage alcohol consumption [27]. Moreover, Facebook or other social media platform provide marketers with access to the profile data of users who like pages. These types of techniques seek to embed alcohol-branded activities in the daily lives of site fans and followers making it become an intrinsic element of daily norms [28].

Alcohol-content, presented as visual images and or textual content, along with positive peer reactions to the posts results in showcasing of inappropriate alcohol use in a positive light [29]. Posting alcohol-related content on personal social media accounts is linked to adverse alcohol-related outcomes such as higher alcohol use, craving and also alcohol-related harms. Those who are exposed to alcohol-related content on social media (e.g. posts shared by or liked by their friends in their social network) have been associated with adverse alcohol outcomes [30].

The above information provides a general overview of the effect of alcohol marketing on social media; please check out the policy brief developed by the Massey University.

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