As indiscriminate alcohol sales continue in Nigeria, a new report from the World Health Organization, WHO, has shown an increasing use of sophisticated online alcohol marketing techniques, even as it called for more effective product regulation.
The report reveals that young people and heavy drinkers are increasingly being targeted by alcohol advertising, often to the detriment of their health.
WHO’s new and first report on ‘Reducing the harm of alcohol by regulating cross-border alcohol marketing, advertising and promotion’ details the full scope of how alcohol is today marketed across national borders, often through digital means and in many cases. regardless of the social, economic or cultural environment of the host country.
Worldwide, 3 million people die each year from harmful alcohol consumption – one every 10 seconds – which accounts for around 5% of all deaths. A disproportionate number of these alcohol-related deaths occur among young people, with 13.5% of all deaths among people aged 20-39 being alcohol-related.
Speaking on the report, World Health Organization Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “Alcohol robs young people, their families and societies of their lives and their potential. Yet , despite the obvious health risks, controls on the marketing of alcohol are much weaker than for other psychoactive products Better, well-enforced and more consistent regulation of the marketing of alcohol would both to save and improve the lives of young people around the world.
The report pointed out that the biggest changes in alcohol marketing in recent years have been the use of sophisticated online marketing.
The collection and analysis of data on user habits and preferences by global internet providers has created new and growing opportunities for alcohol marketers to target messages to specific groups across national borders. . Targeted advertising on social networks is particularly effective in using this data, its impact being reinforced by social influencers and the sharing of posts between social network users.
A data source cited in the report calculated that more than 70% of media spend by major U.S.-based alcohol distributors in 2019 came from online social media promotions, product placements and ads.
Dag Rekve, from the World Health Organization’s Alcohol, Drugs and Addictive Behaviors Unit, said: “The growing importance of digital media means that the marketing of alcohol has become increasingly cross-border.
“The growing importance of digital media means that the marketing of alcohol has become increasingly cross-border.
“This makes it more difficult for countries that regulate the marketing of alcohol to effectively control it in their jurisdictions. Greater collaboration between countries in this area is needed.”
Sponsorship of major sporting events at global, regional and national levels is another key strategy used by transnational alcohol corporations (which are gaining increasing dominance in the production and marketing of alcoholic beverages). Such sponsorship can significantly increase awareness of their brands to new audiences. Additionally, alcohol producers engage in partnerships with sports leagues and clubs to reach viewers and potential consumers in different parts of the world.
The growing esports market, including competitive gaming events, is another opportunity to sponsor events and increase brand recognition and international sales. The same goes for product placement in movies and series, many of which air on international subscription channels. According to an analysis of the 100 highest-grossing American films at the box office between 1996 and 2015, branded alcohol was shown in nearly half of them.
The report showed that the lack of regulation to tackle the cross-border marketing of alcohol is of particular concern for children and adolescents, women and heavy drinkers.
Studies have shown that starting to drink alcohol at a young age is a predictor of hazardous drinking in young adults and beyond. In addition, teenage drinkers are more vulnerable to harm from alcohol consumption than older drinkers. Regions of the world with young and growing populations, such as Africa and Latin America, are particularly targeted.
“Furthermore, alcohol consumption among women is an important growth area for alcohol production and sales. While three quarters of the alcohol consumed globally is consumed by men, experts in alcohol marketers tend to view the low rate of female drinking as an opportunity to grow their market, often portraying female drinking as a symbol of empowerment and equality. corporate social responsibility, on topics such as breast cancer and domestic violence, and engage with women known for their success in areas such as sports or the arts to promote alcohol brands.
“Excessive and dependent drinkers are another target of marketing efforts, since in many countries only 20% of current drinkers drink well over half of all alcohol consumed. stronger urge to drink alcohol when confronted with alcohol-related cues, but they rarely have an effective way to avoid being exposed to the advertising or promotion content.
“While many countries have some form of restrictions in place on the marketing of alcohol, they generally tend to be relatively weak. In a 2018 WHO study, it was found that although most countries have some form of regulation for the marketing of alcohol in traditional media, almost half have no regulation in place for the marketing of alcohol on the internet (48%) and social media (47%),” the report said.
In the meantime, the continued attention and work of national governments, the public health community and the WHO to limit the availability and promotion of tobacco products, with particular attention to cross-border aspects of production and tobacco marketing, have led to vital reductions in global tobacco consumption. tobacco use and exposure.
The report concludes that national governments must incorporate restrictions or outright bans on the marketing of alcohol, including its cross-border aspects, into public health strategies. It highlights the main features and options for regulating the cross-border marketing of alcohol and stresses the need for close collaboration between States in this area.