Purpose: This longitudinal study examined the influence of alcohol advertising and promotions on the initiation of alcohol use. A measure of receptivity to alcohol marketing was developed from research about tobacco marketing. Recall and recognition of alcohol brand names were also examined.
Methods: Data were obtained from in-class surveys of sixth, seventh, and eighth graders at baseline and 12-month follow-up. Participants who were classified as never drinkers at baseline (n = 1,080) comprised the analysis sample. Logistic regression models examined the association of advertising receptivity at baseline with any alcohol use and current drinking at follow-up, adjusting for multiple risk factors, including peer alcohol use, school performance, risk taking, and demographics.
Results: At baseline, 29% of never drinkers either owned or wanted to use an alcohol branded promotional item (high receptivity), 12% students named the brand of their favorite alcohol ad (moderate receptivity), and 59% were not receptive to alcohol marketing. Approximately 29% of adolescents reported any alcohol use at follow-up; 13% reported drinking at least 1 or 2 days in the past month. Never drinkers who reported high receptivity to alcohol marketing at baseline were 77% more likely to initiate drinking by follow-up than those were not receptive. Smaller increases in the odds of alcohol use at follow-up were associated with better recall and recognition of alcohol brand names at baseline.
Conclusions: Alcohol advertising and promotions are associated with the uptake of drinking. Prevention programs may reduce adolescents' receptivity to alcohol marketing by limiting their exposure to alcohol ads and promotions and by increasing their skepticism about the sponsors' marketing tactics.