NCAA Could Survive Without Beer Ads, Data Shows

Campaign for Alcohol-Free Sports TV Urges NCAA to Eliminate Beer Ads


WASHINGTON—Beer advertising during NCAA basketball games is big, but not so big that the league couldn’t replace most of it with ads for products that don't contribute to alcohol problems on campus and elsewhere. Increasingly, that's the message being sent to NCAA officials by its own member schools, coaches, and athletic directors, as well as the Campaign for Alcohol-Free Sports TV.

In a letter to NCAA President Myles Brand, the campaign again urged the NCAA to eliminate beer advertising during the tournament to reduce harmful exposure to college students and younger people.

The NCAA claims its alcohol advertising policy is the most "conservative and restrictive of any televised sport." In reality, the league allows 60 seconds of beer ads per hour (which could be as many as four distinct ads), or 120 seconds total per game. That makes the concentration of beer-ad spending on NCAA games more than two-and-a-half times what it is during other television programming, according to CSPI. Current NCAA policy prohibits advertising for tobacco products, gambling and other alcoholic beverages, but makes an exception for beer.

According to data from TNS Media Intelligence for the 2008 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, the beer category, which includes the Anheuser-Busch and Miller brands, bought a combined $42.8 million—or about 7 percent—of $643 million in total revenue collected by CBS for the tournament. With an increase of 24 percent in total revenue since 2007, the tournament generates advertising rates second only to the Super Bowl. The profitable tournament has attracted some 300 advertisers in the past ten years promoting a wide-range of products, and aired an astonishing 140 ads during the final game of the 2008 tournament (ten were for beer). Ads for cars, movies, cell phones, electronics, financial services, food, razors, network television programs, and the U.S. military have all been major advertisers on NCAA games.

"With the tournament's popularity and ability to attract other advertisers, the NCAA can clearly make a handsome profit without beer ads," said George A. Hacker, director of CSPI's alcohol policies project. "There's absolutely no reason to allow beer advertisements when so many other advertisers are willing to place their message in front of the attentive, young audience the NCAA enjoys."

Increasing evidence shows a strong link between exposure to televised beer ads and heavier, more frequent adolescent drinking, especially during college sporting events.

CSPI's Campaign for Alcohol-Free Sports TV seeks to reduce youth exposure to beer advertising on televised college sports to limit harmful beer consumption. Since 2005, 372—more than one-third— NCAA-member colleges and 16 athletic conferences have signed the "College Commitment" pledge to eliminate beer advertisements from college sports telecasts.

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