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Portman Group hits back against 'misleading' calls for alcohol advertising ban

Published:  05 February, 2015

The Portman Group has branded research from Alcohol Concern which calls for restrictions on alcohol advertising and sponsorship "weak and misleading".

The Portman Group has branded research from Alcohol Concern which calls for restrictions on alcohol advertising and sponsorship "weak and misleading".

FostersThe alcohol health lobby claims 95% of 10 and 11 year-old recognised Fosters lager brandingThe characters of Brad and Dan appear in Foster's lager advertisements, which the alcohol health lobby's research says are known to children.

Alcohol Concern, Alcohol Focus Scotland, Alcohol Concern, Balance North East and Drink Wise published a survey this morning saying 84% of the public believe alcohol advertising in cinemas should only be shown if films have an 18 certificate, while 74% support a ban on alcohol advertising before the 9pm watershed. It called for alcohol advertising to be restricted to factual information in adult press, cinema advertising only to be allowed for 18 certificate films, and the phased removal of alcohol sponsorships after its survey showed, among other findings, that brand recognition of Foster's lager was 95% among 10 and 11-year-olds, 

Its survey of 3,077 respondents, carried out between October 23 and November 9, 2014, also showed that  two thirds agree that alcohol advertising appeals to under 18s, with 58% supporting restrictions on alcohol companies sponsoring sporting events. The group called for the government to crack down on alcohol advertising.

But a Portman Group spokesman said: "This is yet another weak and misleading piece of research from Alcohol Concern who choose to ignore the official government statistics that show underage drinking has been declining at an significant rate for the last decade.

"Alcohol sponsorship is already strictly controlled in the UK and drinks companies are required to actively promote responsible drinking as part of their sponsorship agreements. This commitment is unique to the alcohol sector and has been welcomed by government. Alcohol sponsorship also makes a significant contribution to the country's economy, and provides essential support for grassroots programmes nationwide.

"Bans on alcohol sponsorship do not reduce alcohol harms. In France, an alcohol sponsorship and marketing ban has been accompanied by two decades of increasingly harmful drinking among children and teenagers.

"The drinks industry will keep working as committed partners of national and local government to tackle underage drinking through  life skills education for children, strict enforcement on underage sales and robust  ID schemes."

Recent NHS figures have shown consumption in England among 11-15s has declined 34% between 2004-2013, with the number of 11-15s who think it is ok to drink alcohol once a week declining 22% since 2008.

The Portman Group Code of Practice on Alcohol Sponsorship, launched one year ago, commits alcohol companies to promote responsible drinking as part of their sponsorship agreements, and is backed by the UK government and devolved administrations, as well as a host of sporting venues.  It said Budweiser's FA Cup sponsorship resulted in 58% increase in unique visitors to the Drinkaware website through use of advertising space to promote Drinkaware.

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK said: "This research demonstrates beyond all doubt the very real impact that alcohol marketing has on children and young people. It is morally wrong for huge multinational organisations to be targeting our children and young people in such a way. 

"The alcohol industry spends millions of pounds on advertising to promote their brands and create new consumers. Independent evidence has shown that exposure to alcohol marketing leads people to drink more and from a younger age.  Quite simply, if marketing didn't work and if it didn't benefit shareholders, the industry wouldn't spend money on it."

Meanwhile Ian Twinn, advertiser trade body ISBA's director of public affairs, said: "Advertisers will be puzzled by the pressure group claims that their adverts have resulted in greater childhood awareness of beer and that where it happens translates into a lifelong habit. The evidence does not exist in this report or elsewhere."

He added that the advertising industry was "highly committed" to maintaining strict rules, and took comfort from falling consumption rates among children in the UK. He described the Portman Group's code as "robust".