College Presidents Urge Elimination of Alcohol Advertising on NCAA Sports

NCAA Exceeding its Own Limits on Beer Ads During Final Four and Championship Basketball Games, According to CSPI Analysis


WASHINGTON—More than one hundred college presidents and athletic directors today called on the National Collegiate Athletic Association to end “embarrassingly prominent” beer ads during televised NCAA basketball tournaments. In a letterto NCAA President Myles Brand, the presidents urged the NCAA’s Division I Board of Directors and Executive Committee to formally review its policies on alcohol advertising, which were last examined in 2005.

“Given the persistent problems caused by underage 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,” the officials wrote. “NCAA allowance of beer advertising serves to enrich broadcasters unnecessarily at the expense of the values of sports and higher education.”

According to CSPI’s analysis of broadcasts of the semifinal and championship basketball games, the NCAA is exceeding the limits on beer ads it set for itself in 2005 of not more than 60 seconds per hour or not more than 120 seconds in any telecast. During the UCLA versus Memphis broadcast, CBS aired 200 seconds of beer advertising comprised of 15-, 20-, and 30-second spots for Bud Light, Bud Light Lime, and Miller Lite. During the North Carolina versus Kansas semifinal broadcast, CBS aired 240 seconds of beer ads. During the final on Monday night, 270 seconds of beer ads aired—more than twice what the NCAA says it allows. And none of those totals include several showings each night of Bud Light and Miller Lite sponsorship banners on the screen for five or six seconds at a time.

“Allowing sixty seconds of beer advertising per hour of collegiate sports is bad enough,” said Tracy Downs, manager of the Campaign for Alcohol-Free Sports TV, a project of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “That’s sixty seconds too much. But exceeding that limit shows that the NCAA has a cavalier, ‘devil may care’ attitude about exposing kids to beer ads. They don’t even care enough to enforce their own policy.”

The presidents’ letter cites TNS Media Intelligence data showing that beer was the second-ranked advertising category among the top five advertisers during the 2007 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, and that spending for ads for Anheuser-Busch and Miller Brewing Company’s beers ranked fourth and fifth among all advertisers. The data also show that demand for advertising time during the tournament is high and that more than 300 different advertisers have supported the game telecasts since 1998.

While NCAA policies specifically forbid advertising for alcoholic beverages, they make an exception for beverages with alcohol content of six percent or less, which includes most beers.

Since 2005, 285 NCAA-member colleges and nine college athletic conferences have endorsed apledge to eliminate alcohol ads from college sports. This group includes large Division I schools such as Ohio State, Texas Tech, and the universities of Florida, Minnesota and Nebraska, in addition to many Division II and III schools.

“Those schools recognize the hypocrisy of airing commercials for the very product that causes college administrators, coaches, and parents so much distress,” the college presidents wrote. “Alcohol ads demean the NCAA, student athletes, college prevention efforts, and help put young people at risk.”

The Campaign for Alcohol-Free Sports TV’s national advisory council includes Tom Osborne, University of Nebraska athletic director and former U.S. Representative (R-NE); Dean E. Smith, former University of North Carolina basketball coach; and Andy Geiger, former athletic director at Ohio State.

In March, Osborne separately urged Brand to exclude beer ads from televised sports. “Over my 36 years of coaching, most of the really negative occurrences that I had to deal with in regards to student-athletes involved alcohol and invariably the alcohol chosen was beer,” wrote Osborne, who noted that alcohol contributes to 70,000 sexual assaults and 1,700 deaths on college campuses each year.

“College administrators and local law enforcement are really struggling to control the violence, vandalism, and health problems fueled by binge drinking on campus,” said George Hacker, director of the Alcohol Policies Project at CSPI. “It’s time for the NCAA to stop pouring gasoline on the fire and stop airing these ads.”

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