Money spent on beer ads linked to underage drinking

AMES, Iowa – Advertising budgets and strategies used by beer companies appear to influence underage drinking, according to new research from Iowa State University.

The findings show that the amount of money spent on advertising strongly predicted the percentage of teens who had heard of, preferred and tried different beer brands. For example, 99% of middle school and high school students surveyed for the study had heard of Budweiser and Bud Light – the top spender on advertising – and 44% said they had used the brand.

The study, published by the journal Addictive Behaviors Reports, is one of the first to examine the relationship among advertising budgets, underage drinking and brand awareness. The study was led by Iowa State professor Douglas Gentile, assistant professors Brooke Arterberry and Kristi Costabile, and Aalborg University assistant professor Patrick Bender.

Gentile says advertisers use cognitive and affective strategies – humor, animation, funny voices, special effects – that often appeal to youth. To test this, researchers looked at money spent on beer ads to determine the relationship with brand awareness, preference, loyalty and use among teens. They then compared advertising strategies with teens’ intention to drink as an adult and current alcohol consumption.

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