As a sponsor of the Euro 2016 football cup, Carlsberg advertised alcohol extensively, despite the French Loi Evin law that prohibits alcohol marketing in television broadcasts. Many of the adverts were exposed to children.

A report entitled “Foul Play: Alcohol Marketing During UEFA Euro 2016” shows that Carlsberg chose to ignore the spirit of the French law governing alcohol advertising. Researchers found more than 100 alcohol marketing references per televised game.

The study was carried out by researchers at the Institute for Social Marketing, University of Stirling and funded by the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS), Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP), and Alcohol Action Ireland.

The study shows that the average number of alcohol marketing references per minute was 0.69 in French broadcasts, 0.65 in the UK broadcasts, and 0.59 in Irish broadcasts. Most references appeared during the match, where the footage was the same in all three countries. The most popular location and format was electronic pitch-side advertising. Almost all the marketing references were indirect (i.e. the brand was only identifiable from signifiers such as phrases from the brand slogan). There were limited differences between the three countries.

The researchers conclude that the high proportion of indirect references demonstrates that alcohol producers were able to circumvent the Loi Évin using ‘alibi marketing’. The limited differences between the three countries highlight the importance of a host nation’s regulations for international tournaments. Regulations to limit alcohol advertising need to be rigorously enforced and monitored, with clear lines of accountability explicitly outlined in law.

The Loi Evin law, adopted in 1991, is based on three principles:

MEDIA LIMITATIONS: Alcohol marketing may only feature through named media channels (e.g. outdoor and billboard or internet marketing). Other forms of media are prohibited (e.g. sponsorship and television).

CONTENT LIMITATIONS: Marketing may only contain messages that refer to the qualities and characteristics of products (e.g. alcohol % and origin). Any content not listed is prohibited (e.g. evocative images, associations with pleasure, success etc.)

INFORMING CONSUMERS: Marketing must contain a mandatory health warning (‘Abuse of alcohol is dangerous for health. Consume with moderation’).

Research shows that exposure to brand-specific alcohol ads is a significant predictor of under-age alcohol use, with youth ages 13 to 20 being more than 5 times more likely to consume brands that advertise on national TV[5]. Particularly concerning is the fact that earlier this year a systematic literature study found a positive association between exposure to alcohol sports sponsorship and increased alcohol consumption amongst adult sportspeople and schoolchildren.