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Awareness of alcohol marketing, ownership of alcohol branded merchandise, and the association with alcohol consumption, higher-risk drinking, and drinking susceptibility in adolescents and young adults: a cross-sectional survey in the UK
  1. Nathan Critchlow1,
  2. Anne Marie MacKintosh1,
  3. Christopher Thomas2,
  4. Lucie Hooper2,
  5. Jyotsna Vohra2
  1. 1 Institute for Social Marketing, Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport, University of Stirling, Stirling, UK
  2. 2 Cancer Policy Research Centre (CPRC), Cancer Research UK, London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Nathan Critchlow; nathan.critchlow{at}


Objectives To explore awareness of alcohol marketing and ownership of alcohol branded merchandise in adolescents and young adults in the UK, what factors are associated with awareness and ownership, and what association awareness and ownership have with alcohol consumption, higher-risk drinking and susceptibility.

Design Online cross-sectional survey conducted during April–May 2017.

Setting The UK.

Participants Adolescents and young adults aged 11–19 years in the UK (n=3399).

Main outcome measures Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test–Consumption (AUDIT-C) (0–12) and indication of higher-risk consumption (>5 AUDIT-C) in current drinkers. Susceptibility to drink (yes/no) in never drinkers.

Results Eighty-two per cent of respondents were aware of at least one form of alcohol marketing in the past month and 17% owned branded merchandise. χ2 tests found that awareness of marketing and ownership of branded merchandise varied within drinking variables. For example, higher awareness of alcohol marketing was associated with being a current drinker (χ2=114.04, p<0.001), higher-risk drinking (χ2=85.84, p<0.001), and perceived parental (χ2=63.06, p<0.001) and peer approval of consumption (χ2=73.08, p<0.001). Among current drinkers, multivariate regressions (controlling for demographics and covariates) found that marketing awareness and owning branded merchandise was positively associated with AUDIT-C score and higher-risk consumption. For example, current drinkers reporting medium marketing awareness were twice as likely to be higher-risk drinkers as those reporting low awareness (adjusted OR (AOR)=2.18, 95% CI 1.39 to 3.42, p<0.001). Among never drinkers, respondents who owned branded merchandise were twice as likely to be susceptible to drinking as those who did not (AOR=1.98, 95% CI 1.20 to 3.24, p<0.01).

Conclusions Young people, above and below the legal purchasing age, are aware of a range of alcohol marketing and almost one in five own alcohol branded merchandise. In current drinkers, alcohol marketing awareness was associated with increased consumption and greater likelihood of higher-risk consumption. In never drinkers, ownership of branded merchandise was associated with susceptibility.

  • public health
  • alcohol
  • young people
  • alcohol marketing
  • survey
  • alcohol advertising

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  • Contributors LH, CT and JV led the study design and data acquisition. LH, CT, JV were involved in design of the study tools with support from AMM. NC and AMM planned the analysis, and this was conducted by AMM. NC and AMM led interpretation of the results, with input from LH, CT and JV. NC drafted the manuscript, with support from AMM on methods and results, and all authors provided feedback and approved the final version of the manuscript.

  • Funding This work was supported by a grant from Cancer Research UK (1107098).

  • Competing interests NC is a board member of Alcohol Focus Scotland. All other authors have no conflict of interest to declare.

  • Ethics approval University of Stirling’s General University Ethics Panel (GUEP59).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement The raw data (deindentified participant survey responses) from the Youth Alcohol Policy are held by the Cancer Policy Research Centre at Cancer Research UK.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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