Letter Calling for NFL's Redskin owner to terminate current advertising relationship with Diageo

September 25, 2002

Mr. Daniel Snyder
The Washington Redskins
21300 Redskin Park Drive
Ashburn, VA 20147

Dear Mr. Snyder:

As organizations concerned about the well-being of the children and youth of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, we want to express our disappointment with you and the Washington Redskins organization for selling advertising space for the promotion of hard liquor in Fed-Ex Field and during Redskin football telecasts. We respectfully ask that you terminate your current advertising relationship with Diageo immediately.

The Redskins’ unprecedented sponsorship deal opens the door to a deluge of hard-liquor promotion in professional sports and furthers the liquor industry’s aggressive efforts to reach millions of underage viewers in the powerful broadcast media. Airing ads for Smirnoff Ice and Captain Morgan’s Gold (malt-based beverages with liquor names and logos) during Redskin telecasts trumpets liquor brands and enables Diageo to sidestep the networks’ voluntary ban on hard liquor ads. Redskin games are watched by a large number of underage fans. These ads will become only the opening wedge of a new onslaught of hip, slick, appeals to try liquor brands. Although perhaps legally permissible, we firmly believe that it is wrong to expand alcohol marketers’ access to large audiences of young, impressionable children and teens.

Alcohol is the leading drug threat to young people in America, the one most likely to interfere with their education as well as put them at serious risk for injury and death. Thousands of young people under the age of 21 die of alcohol-related causes each year. Alcohol is a factor in the four leading causes of death among persons ages 10 to 24: (1) motor-vehicle crashes, (2) unintentional injuries, (3) homicide and (4) suicide; and underage drinking costs Americans $53 billion annually.

Studies suggest that attempts to prevent or delay drinking among young people should give attention to alcohol advertising. In particular, efforts should be made to reduce the extent to which it appeals to children and to reduce their exposure to it. Alcohol advertising may predispose young people to drinking. Children who were more aware of beer advertisements held more favorable beliefs about drinking and had more knowledge of beer brands and slogans. Most teenagers and adults feel that liquor advertisers want teens to view their TV ads, and a majority say TV advertisers are trying to influence teens to drink liquor.

Extensive alcohol advertising (more than $1.4 billion in 2001 and more than $450 million expected this year for "alcopops" alone) that glamorizes and normalizes alcohol consumption regularly reaches large numbers of underage persons. In fact, alcohol ads even after 9:00 PM may reach as many as 22 million adolescents 12-17 who watch TV at this time. Those messages exacerbate alcohol problems by encouraging young people to drink, ignoring most problems related to alcohol consumption, and developing expectations that drinking is an important, valued, fun, and anticipated young-adult behavior.

It is bad enough that beer commercials steadily inundate millions of underage viewers during NFL games. Opening the door to a new flood of liquor ads, enticing teens also to try liquor brands, may serve the Redskins’ bottom line but represents an affront to the Washington Metropolitan community. The Mission statement of the Washington Redskins Community Outreach admirably states:

"To be the voice that raises awareness of issues concerning youth in the region,
and to utilize the unique assets of the Washington Redskins organization and
its corporate and community partners to achieve measurable results that
improve communities."

The Redskins’ liquor-advertising deal with Diageo directly counters this noble purpose and does a tremendous disservice to young football fans and the community. We are certain that many others in the community share our views.

We respectfully request that the Redskins organization immediately end its relationship with Diageo, refuse ads for liquor-branded products during Redskins telecasts, and remove any liquor-branded signage from Fed-Ex Field. We look forward to working with you and the Redskins organization to do what is best for the young people of the Washington area.


George A. Hacker
Alcohol Policies Project

On Behalf of:
The Virginia Council of Churches
The Downtown Cluster of Congregations
Montgomery County Community Partnership
Children Count, Washington, D.C.