Every year America gathers around the television with drinks and snacks to watch the outcome of the Super Bowl. Part of that tradition is waiting for new commercials that will air throughout the game. According to TNS Media Intelligence, Anheuser-Busch, makers of Budweiser have been advertisers during the game for the past 20 years with advertising dollars spent over the last two decades nearing $275 million. And, that’s just during the game…
Dr. Susanne E. Tanski spoke at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies and confirmed that all that money isn’t going to waste. She stated that advertising dollars do influence what beverage is purchased. And, surveys show that underage drinkers in particular are more likely to choose highly visible and heavily advertised brands as their drink of choice. These individuals are also more prone to binge drinking than those who do not have a favorite brand.
There have been two surveys recently conducted on the subject. The first study examined 328 young adults between the ages of 18 and 23 years of age, half were male and half were female. In the month prior to the study, nearly 58 percent of the group had participated in drinking episodes and 62 percent reported that they had actually been involved in binge drinking. Participants in the study were shown pictures of fast food restaurant and beer ads where the brand name was masked. Their recall skills were then tested to see if they could remember the brands without the logos.
The recall exercise was coupled with responses regarding drinking intensity. For example, participants were questioned regarding alcohol abuse within the last 12 months and were asked to report how often they had experienced such symptoms as vomiting, passing out, and memory loss. After all variables were accounted for, regression analysis showed those with a higher alcohol brand recall were linked with increased alcohol abuse.
Although adolescents are not the target of most alcohol ads, the effects of these ads are the subject of hot debate. The second study polled nearly 2700 young adults aged 16 to 20 years old to determine what impact television ads had on their brand preference and overall alcohol use. Nearly 64 percent of participants reported that they had drunk before, and about 21 percent reported binge drinking in the month prior to the survey. More than 68 percent of those with a drinking history reported that they supported a preferred brand. Of the preferred brands, the majority of boys favored Budweiser, while the girls named Smirnoff as their top pick.
While alcohol advertisers may not intend for these young adults to be a part of their target audience, they are nevertheless influenced. Alcohol ads depict a lot of partying and good times being had by those consuming their brand. This is appealing for young people.
Dr. David Jernigan, associate professor at John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore reminds us of this staggering truth: each year alcohol is responsible for almost 5000 underage deaths and each day nearly as many people under the age of 16 start drinking. We have a responsibility to make sure we are not contributing to these statistics.