TELL THE NFL TO REJECT ADS FOR HARD LIQUOR
Diageo, the world’s largest producer of alcoholic-beverages (whose brands include Captain Morgan’s rum, Smirnoff vodka, and Tanqueray gin), announced an unprecedented multi-million dollar, multi-year advertising contract with the Washington Redskins and separate deals with the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins. These deals not only mix hard liquor promotion and professional football for the first time, but also further undermine the TV networks’ voluntary ban on hard-liquor advertising. After dropping its 50-year voluntary ban on broadcast advertising in 1996, the liquor industry has greatly expanded its ad presence on cable and independent broadcast stations and has intensified pressure to get liquor ads on network television. Those lobbying efforts nearly succeeded in December 2001, when General Electric’s NBC network accepted ads for hard-liquor. After a short period of airing liquor-industry "responsibility messages" as a prelude to liquor ads, NBC reinstated its voluntary ban in response to massive public outcry and Congressional displeasure. Later, Diageo announced its intention to create an "unwired network" of cable and independent television outlets to air its liquor ads. The NFL team advertising deals follow that scheme. CSPI POSITION The National Football League and its teams should avoid entering into liquor advertising agreements. The NFL should not partner with the liquor industry in marketing booze to children – a lucrative present and future market for the industry. Teens represent a solid, albeit illegal segment of the market for alcoholic-beverages. Underage drinkers in the U.S. consume as much as 10% of all alcoholic-beverages.
Diageo, the world’s largest producer of alcoholic-beverages (whose brands include Captain Morgan’s rum, Smirnoff vodka, and Tanqueray gin), announced an unprecedented multi-million dollar, multi-year advertising contract with the Washington Redskins and separate deals with the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins. These deals not only mix hard liquor promotion and professional football for the first time, but also further undermine the TV networks’ voluntary ban on hard-liquor advertising.
After dropping its 50-year voluntary ban on broadcast advertising in 1996, the liquor industry has greatly expanded its ad presence on cable and independent broadcast stations and has intensified pressure to get liquor ads on network television. Those lobbying efforts nearly succeeded in December 2001, when General Electric’s NBC network accepted ads for hard-liquor. After a short period of airing liquor-industry "responsibility messages" as a prelude to liquor ads, NBC reinstated its voluntary ban in response to massive public outcry and Congressional displeasure. Later, Diageo announced its intention to create an "unwired network" of cable and independent television outlets to air its liquor ads. The NFL team advertising deals follow that scheme.
The National Football League and its teams should avoid entering into liquor advertising agreements. The NFL should not partner with the liquor industry in marketing booze to children – a lucrative present and future market for the industry. Teens represent a solid, albeit illegal segment of the market for alcoholic-beverages. Underage drinkers in the U.S. consume as much as 10% of all alcoholic-beverages.Glamorized images of alcohol use bombard our nation’s children and ignore the many serious downsides of alcohol use. In 1998, Donna Shalala, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, speaking to the NCAA, recognized that "advertising may influence adolescents to be more favorably disposed to drinking." She emphatically called for the separation of alcohol and college sports.
Studies have found that children frequently exposed to ads for beer recognize and recall brand names; have the ability to match brand names and beer slogans; and are more likely to develop beliefs that associate drinking with good times and fun more often than caution and risk.
CSPI urges the Washington Redskins, Miami Dolphins, and New England Patriots to reverse their decisions to sell airtime and advertising space to Diageo. CSPI urges the NFL and its other teams to refuse advertising and sponsorship for hard-liquor products, including the growing number of liquor-branded "alcopops" "malternatives" and "RTDs" -- ready-to-drink beverages -- that promote liquor brands.
Failing a continued voluntary ban on liquor advertising on network television, CSPI calls upon Congress to impose meaningful time, place, and manner restrictions on all alcoholic-beverage advertising so that such ads reach as few underage persons as possible.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Contact the NFL
Your letter or call is important! Please fax your letter to: 212-681-7575, mail it (see letter below), or call the NFL at 212-450-2000 and ask for the Commissioners' office. Here is a sample letter to send to NFL Commissioner Tagliabue.
Go to http://www.cspinet.org/booze/tell_nfl.htm for additional ideas and actions.
Engage Your Local Media
The media is a powerful tool for turning up the heat on the NFL. Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper, submit an opinion article to your newspaper, or organize a meeting with the paper’s editorial board. Examples of a press release, sample letters to the editor, opinion pieces, and editorial board meetings can be found at Letters to the Editor, Opinion Pieces, and ED Board meetings.
Prepare a few thoughts to use in case a radio or TV interview opportunity presents itself. Here are a few sound bites you might want to adapt for your own use:
If you have an NFL team in your community:
Work with your local city council or commission to enact a resolution opposing liquor ads in the football stadiums and during football telecasts, urging local broadcasters to reject such ads, and calling for federal regulation to restrict alcohol commercials on television. Sample Community Resolution
Letters to the Editor, Opinion Pieces, and ED Board meetings
Guidelines for writing a letter to the editor:
1. What is the appropriate length? Most letters are approximately 150-200 words long, but check with the letters editor of the campus and community papers and other publication outlets for special length restrictions.
2. To whom should the letter be addressed? This information may be listed on the letters page; if not, a short website visit or phone call to the paper will provide all the needed information.
3. What news articles or letters are being published about alcohol related issues? If someone else makes a point in agreement with the policy goals of your organization, write in support of their statement; if you disagree, write in dissent. Letters in response to articles or letters can clarify details, point out facts which were omitted, or correct false or misleading information. Refer to the article or letter by noting its title and date in parentheses.
4. Don't overuse statistics. Do use creative epidemiology or "social math" techniques for clarity. An example of this might be: "One in ten beers is illegally consumed by an underage drinker."
5. Address one subject per letter. Include a brief statement of the subject at hand (one or two sentences at most), and assume that some readers do not know much about the topic or did not read the previous article or letter.
6. Don't be accusatory when writing in disagreement; simply point out the writer's errors. Send letters of response as quickly as possible; if the topic becomes "old news," your letter may have less of a chance to be published.
SAMPLE LETTER TO THE EDITOR (#1)
To the Editor:
Like most parents in [INSERT COMMUNITY], I want to help create an environment that promotes and protects children’s health. That’s why I’m outraged by the recent decision by several NFL teams to air liquor-brand ads and permit stadium placement for such ads.
Every week, millions of children and young people watch NFL games. 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 NFL’s bottom line, but sends the wrong message to kids. As beer makers have, liquor promoters will use NFL games to market their products aggressively to young people who represent both a strong segment of regular consumers and the potential best customers of the future.
If the NFL cannot regulate the ads accepted by its teams, then Congress must act to reestablish community standards that can protect children. Football games on TV use our airwaves. The NFL has an undeniable public-interest responsibility to use them in ways that do not cause harm. The promotion of underage liquor consumption hardly qualifies as a "public service."
SAMPLE LETTER TO THE EDITOR (#2)
To the Editor:
As a concerned parent, I have made a point of speaking with my children about alcohol throughout their childhood and adolescent years. I emphasized that alcohol is a drink for adults and should be consumed responsibly, if at all. I always tried to counter the notion that alcohol is romantic or cool: A life destroyed by alcoholism or drunk-driving is certainly neither.
Recently, action by several NFL teams has made parents’ jobs much harder. Selling airtime to the liquor-industry not only boosts the bottom line of a team; it delivers young potential consumers to liquor companies.
The NFL needs to stay off the bottle. If the league and its member teams can not do it alone, then Congress should step in to assist parents to keep their children alcohol-free.
IDEAS FOR EDITORIAL BOARD MEETINGS
1. Every newspaper has its own method for determining what topics are covered and which positions are taken on the editorial page. Most editorial boards are open to meetings with advocacy groups. If a well-known spokesperson or expert is part of your coalition, bring them to the meeting. No more than three people should attend this meeting.
2. Persuade an editorial board to take your organization's side on the NFL policy towards liquor ads. The editorial board can give your argument strength that may carry additional weight with decision makers.
3. Leave with the editors short fact sheets or position papers about the problems associated with advertising liquor during NFL games. Include a list of groups supporting the initiative.
4. Be prepared to discuss the subject in detail, and do not be discouraged if the editors argue the opposing viewpoint. They need to think thoroughly about the topic in order to make a decision on their position.
TIPS FOR OPINION-EDITORIAL (Op-Ed) Articles
1. Find out the length requirements. Most editorials are three double-spaced, typed pages or about 750 words.
2. What is the deadline for submitting an op-ed? Call the editorial staff at the newspaper to find out.
3. Write in a direct, conversational tone. Read other columnists for examples of tone.
4. Discuss one theme only, using two or three main points for support.
5. Include the source in the text as much as possible when citing facts. For example, a sentence might read: "A 1991 nationwide survey by Southern Illinois University found that one-third of college students preferred events where alcohol is not served."
Sample NFL Letter
National Football League
280 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10017
Dear Mr. Tagliabue:
As [PARENTS, FAMILIES, ORGANIZATIONS] concerned about the well-being of the children and youth of this community, [I/WE] want to express our extreme disappointment with the advertising of hard-liquor in NFL football stadiums and during NFL football telecasts. As parents, members of families, and fans, we ask the team not to sell airtime or space in the stadium to the liquor industry.
An NFL/liquor-company sponsorship deal opens the door to a deluge of hard-liquor promotion during games our children watch. By making this deal, a team assists the liquor industry’s aggressive efforts to reach millions of underage viewers. Airing ads for liquor-branded “alcopops” (malt-based beverages with liquor names and logos) during NFL telecasts trumpets liquor brands and enables liquor producers to sidestep the networks’ voluntary ban on hard liquor ads. NFL games are watched by large audiences of underage fans every week.
It is bad enough that beer commercials steadily inundate underage viewers during NFL games. Opening the door to a new flood of liquor ads, enticing teens to try liquor brands, cannot help in our fight to deter underage drinking.
Alcohol is the number one drug used by teens. It 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 in health care, criminal justice, social services, property damage, and loss of productivity expenses.
[I/WE] respectfully request that the NFL refuse ads for liquor-branded products during NFL telecasts, and remove any liquor-branded signage from football stadiums. We look forward to working with you and the NFL to do what is best for the young people of this country.
Sample Community Resolution
Below is a sample resolution for advocates to use in getting local government involved in the effort to ban liquor advertising from broadcasts of the NFL and its affiliates games, and pre- and post-game shows. Present it to a friendly city councilperson, county alderman/commissioner, or other local official and ask for its adoption. Edit or personalize the "Whereas" clauses, to best reflect your community’s situation and concerns.
Whereas, [a local team] of the National Football League (NFL) has recently decided to broadcast paid advertisements for distilled spirits and liquors; and
Whereas, liquor commercials will reach many persons under 21 years of age in our community, encouraging them to drink liquor; and,
Whereas, comprehensive national research conducted by scientists from Michigan State University and the University of Missouri over the past five years confirms that hard-liquor ads on TV increase the pressure to drink on our Nation’s youth; and,
Whereas, that study found that 15- to 20-year-olds with greater exposure to TV liquor advertising were more likely to have intentions to drink liquor when older than those with lesser exposure to those ads; and,
Whereas, in [your city/county] alcohol-related problems, treatment, prevention, crime, adjudication, health care problems, etc. cost this locality [# of lives (or) # of dollars] per year; and,
(Suggestion: Seek these statistics from either local service providers or add figures from this governmental body’s own operating budget for those services.)
Whereas, alcohol is by far America’s number-one youth drug problem, killing six times more young people than all illicit drugs combined, and underage drinking costs our country an estimated $53 billion per year; and,
Whereas, according to the latest federal government data, nearly one-third of all 12- to 20-year-olds report using alcohol within the past month, with nearly 20 percent binge drinking; and,
Whereas, [add local data/anecdotes]
Whereas, the age of first alcohol use strongly predicts future alcoholism and dependency; and,
Whereas, most Americans (70%) agree that it is dangerous to have liquor ads on TV because they will introduce underage persons to liquor, and 79% think that airing those ads will be a factor in causing young people under 21 to try distilled spirits;
Therefore, be it resolved, we the Council of the [City/County of ___________] do hereby formally request that [Local NFL Team] assist this city in protecting our youth and preserving community standards to prevent underage drinking by:
Prohibiting hard-liquor ads from appearing during all local programming, including the pre/post-game shows and the game itself; and,
Barring the placement of any signage that includes liquor-brand names, logos, or other representation of a liquor product in the stadium, training camp area; and,
Prohibiting the placement of any advertisement that includes liquor-brand names, logos, or other representation in any publication produced for distribution, including year books, game programs, media guides, and any other publications.
Be it further resolved, that this body requests that similar requests to observe this community standard be sent to all other NFL franchises that may visit this community; and,
Be it further resolved, that this body encourage Congress and the President to consider legislation imposing meaningful time, place, and manner restrictions on all alcoholic-beverage advertising in sports in broadcast and other media. Such will help protect the community standards of cities and towns such as [your town/county] across the United States.
[Fact Sheet: Alcohol Advertising and Young People] [Fact Sheet: Young People and Alcohol] [CSPI Press Release] [Tips on letters to the Editor, Opinion Pieces, and meeting with Ed Boards]
August 23, 2002