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Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth

Alcohol Advertising on Sports Television, 2001 to 2003


Children and teens are major fans of sports. A study co-sponsored by ESPN found that in 2001, 93% of youth ages eight to 17 watched, listened to or read about sports via television, radio, newspapers, books, the Internet, video games and the movies. Television is the medium used most for sports by the majority of these youth (93% of boys, 81% of girls).1 A Harris Youth Sports Report in 1999 found that 29% of kids say they are diehard fans of National Basketball Association (NBA) games, compared with only 14% of adults.2 And according to the NFL's senior communications director, "Among our most avid fans, 69% said they were fans of the NFL by the time they were 12."3 Youth ages 12 to 15 prefer to get their sports news from television sports news shows, choosing them over the Internet, family, magazines, newspapers or radio.4

The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth's own research has demonstrated that overall alcohol advertising on televised sports programming in 2003 was more likely to be seen by adults than youth: youth make up 13.3% of the national television viewing population but on average only 9.1% of the audience for televised sports with alcohol advertising.5 In most cases the youth share of the audience for this advertising was lower than the proportion of youth in the television viewing population. However, for 16.5% of alcohol ad placements on televised sports ($47.1 million worth of advertising spending), the youth share of the audience was higher than the proportion of youth in the overall television viewing population.

Many people, including leading sports columnists and sports figures such as former Congressman and current athletic director at the University of Nebraska Tom Osborne (R-NE),6 as well as other members of Congress,7 have raised concerns about excessive youth exposure to alcohol advertising on sports programs, particularly in college sports. The purpose of this fact sheet is to provide some basic factual information to inform these public discussions.

The fact sheet looks at alcohol product advertising8 on network cable TV, broadcast network TV (national and regional), and broadcast spot TV as reported by TNS Media Intelligence/CMR for 2003.9 We compare alcohol product advertising with all other television advertising, with other product advertising on sports programming, and with other alcohol product advertising on television.10

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  1. Statistical Research, Inc., AAF/ESPN Children and Sports Media Study, 2001.
  2. Bob Woods, "Tracking Kids and Sports," PROMO (March 1, 2000).
  3. Ibid.
  4. EPM Communications, Research Alert Yearbook 2003 (New York City: EPM Communications, 2003), 273.
  5. TNS Media Intelligence/CMR 2003.
  6. Phil Mushnick, "Tasteless, Vulgar and Everywhere," The New York Post, Monday 15 September 2003, p. 64; Congressional Record, 108th Cong., 1st sess., 2003, p. H8263; Liz Clarke, "A Beer Commercial is Stopped Cold; NCAA?s Rejection of Miller Ad for Final Four Is Part of a Brewing Controversy," The Washington Post, Saturday 4 April 2003, sec. D, p. 1.
  7. See, e.g., 108th Congress, S. 2718 and H.R. 4888, Title 1, Section 101(8): "The National Collegiate Athletic Association, its member colleges and universities, and athletic conferences should affirm a commitment to a policy of discouraging alcohol use among underage students and other young fans by ending all alcohol advertising during radio and television broadcasts of collegiate sporting events."
  8. For analyses of alcohol industry responsibility advertising on television in 2001 and 2002, see Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, Drops in the Bucket: Alcohol Industry "Responsibility" Advertising on Television in 2001 (Washington, DC: Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, 2003), and Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, Fewer Drops in the Bucket: Alcohol Industry "Responsibility" Advertising Declined on Television in 2002 (Washington, DC: Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth, 2004).
  9. For this purpose, we used the program classification types as reported by TNS Media Intelligence/CMR.
  10. Neither advertising purchases on local cable systems or cable interconnects nor Hispanic television advertising is included in either the alcohol or all category expenditures, and non-product, corporate and event advertising has been excluded from the alcohol expenditures.