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Industry Guidelines

5.6 AREA 6: Marketing of alcoholic beverages

5.6 AREA 6: Marketing of alcoholic beverages

WHO position as outlined in the strategy

Reducing the impact of marketing, particularly on young people and adolescents, is an important consideration in reducing harmful use of alcohol. Alcohol is marketed through increasingly sophisticated advertising and promotion techniques, including linking alcohol brands to sports and cultural activities, sponsorships, and product placements and new marketing techniques such as emails, SMS, podcasting, social media, and other communication techniques. The transmission of alcohol marketing messages across national borders and jurisdictions on channels such as satellite television and the Internet and sponsorship of sports and cultural events are emerging as a serious concerns in some countries.
It is very difficult to target young adult consumers without exposing cohorts of adolescents under the legal age to the same marketing. The exposure of children and young people to appealing marketing is of particular concern, as is the targeting of new markets in developing and low- and middle-income countries with a current low prevalence of alcohol consumption or high abstinence rates. Both the content of alcohol marketing and the exposure of young people to that marketing are crucial issues. A precautionary approach to protecting young people against these marketing techniques should be considered.
Policy options outlined in the strategy
(a) Setting up regulatory or co-regulatory frameworks, preferably with a legislative basis and supported when appropriate by self-regulatory measures, for alcohol marketing by: 
  •       Regulating the content and volume of marketing
  •       Regulating direct or indirect marketing
  •       Regulating sponsorship activities that promote alcohol beverages
  •       Restricting or banning promotions in connection with activities targeting young people
  •       Regulating new forms of alcohol marketing techniques (e.g., social media)

(b) Developing by public agencies or independent bodies of effective systems of surveillance of marketing alcohol products

(c) Setting up effective administrative and deterrence systems for infringements on marketing restrictions
Brief comments from an industry perspective
While some will take issue with the language of the strategy on this issue, there is much that Industry members can do and are doing to prevent problematic impacts from their marketing. Industry members have a long-standing track record of working within self- or co-regulatory frameworks governing the marketing of beverage alcohol. Almost all self-regulatory systems operate within a broad legal framework that sets overall principles. Self-regulation best practice incorporates these principles in codes of practice and then ensures that compliance mechanisms are in place. All self-regulatory codes should prohibit the targeting of young people under the legal drinking age. The most effective self-regulatory systems are those that are inclusive of all industry players and that cover all media, including new forms of communication such as digital marketing. Self-regulation should set clear standards that are well publicized and that address both content and placement. There should be a transparent and independent complaint resolution process that ensures timely removal of non-compliant marketing. Findings of complaints resolution bodies should be put into the public domain.
How can industry members support the above policy options?
  • Developing and complying with individual company codes of marketing practice
  • Implementing internal company training initiatives on responsible marketing for all relevant employees
  • Supporting training initiatives on responsible marketing for advertising and brand PR agencies
  • Developing sector-specific or pan-industry codes of practice, with effective compliance mechanisms and covering all media
  • Ensuring compliance with statutory marketing regulations and relevant legislative requirements
  • Abiding by the rulings of self-regulatory organizations
  • Establishing self-regulatory organizations where they do not exist
  • Using an independent and transparent complaints process, with effective sanctions
  • Ensuring that all codes are regularly updated, as appropriate
  • Tracking compliance with independent audits
  • Ensuring that key stakeholders understand how the self-regulatory process works and how they can make an input 
What ICAP tools are available to support this work?
  • ICAP/EASA/WFA/IAA Toolkit on setting up self-regulatory organizations and the module on alcohol
  • ICAP Issues Briefing, Alcohol Marketing and Young People
  • ICAP Blue Book, Annex 2: Codes of Practice for Self-regulation
  • ICAP Expert Committee Report, Responsible Drinks Marketing: Shared Rights and Responsibilities
  • ICAP Framework for Responsibility
Extending the reach of self-regulation is a key element of the Global Actions on Harmful Drinking initiatives in Argentina, Brazil, CARICOM, China, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Philippines, Rwanda, Ukraine, and Vietnam. See:
What other tools are available to support this work?


Next - Section 5.7: AREA 7: Pricing policies