Colleges Criticize Quantity of Beer Ads During NCAA Broadcasts

Cite A-B and SAB Miller as No. 4, No. 5 Largest Advertisers

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WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- More than 100 college presidents and athletic directors are urging NCAA President Myles Brand to re-examine the presence of alcohol ads on broadcasts of games, suggesting that college sports and beer advertising are a "bad mix."
The Center for Science in the Public Interest has said some of CBS's game telecasts may have exceeded the amount of beer advertising allowed.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest has said some of CBS's game telecasts may have exceeded the amount of beer advertising allowed.

In a letter sent yesterday, the presidents cited the amount of beer advertising during CBS's broadcast of the "March Madness" college basketball tournament.

"Beer advertising during the games continues to undermine the many positive attributes of college spots and taints the NCAA's status as an inspirational youth brand," the letter reads.

The letter said two advertisers, Anheuser-Busch and SAB Miller, are the No. 4 and No. 5 biggest advertisers in the games, and "sends the wrong message to millions of impressionable young viewers."

"We find it odd that the NCAA's advertising and promotional standards purport to 'exclude those advertisements and advertisers ... that do not appear to be in the best interests of higher education and student athletes, yet allow beer advertising," the letter reads. "Given the persistent problems caused by under-age and excessive college drinking, much of it in the form of beer, we find it inconceivable that the NCAA's profiting from beer promotion during the telecasts of college basketball games comports with the best interests of higher education, sports or student welfare." One hundred college presidents cited under-age drinking and excessive college-age drinking in their letter asking the NCAA to review its policy allowing beer advertising in game broadcasts.

The NCAA last reviewed its alcohol-advertising standards in 2005; the policy limits alcohol advertising to products that don't exceed 6% alcohol levels, meaning beer and some wine coolers. It also allows only allows one minute per hour of any telecast to be devoted to alcohol ads.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest has said some of CBS's game telecasts may have exceeded the amount of beer advertising allowed. It cited the broadcasts of semifinal games featuring UCLA vs. Memphis and North Carolina vs. Kansas.

The letter from coaches and athletic directors asks Mr. Brand to send the issue back to the NCAA Division 1 board of directors and the NCAA executive committee.

Brewers and ad groups said the audience watching the NCAA games is by far mostly adult. Beer Institute President Jeff Becker said that according to Nielsen ratings, 88% of viewers of this year's tournament were 21 or over and the median viewing age was 47.

"Brewers and beer importers are adamantly opposed to illegal under-age drinking and alcohol abuse. Our members advertise during the NCAA men's basketball tournament because that's where their customers are -- adults 21 and older," he said.

He questioned the reasoning behind the request, noting the institute's marketing code limits advertising to programming for which at least 70% of the audience is 21 or over.

"Censoring advertising will do nothing to address illegal under-age or abusive drinking," Mr. Becker said. "Restricting youth access to alcohol is key: If teens can't get it, they can't drink it."

Mr. Becker said brewers have spent more than half a billion dollars on promoting responsibility and fighting underage drinking.
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