New research into esports has revealed excessive amounts of alcohol advertising, with the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) calling for regulations to be introduced to protect the growing global audience.
The study, led by University of Queensland associate professor, Sarah Jane Kelly, found heavy gamers (those that played or watched 3-4 days per week or more) are more likely to purchase alcohol brands that sponsor an online game they play or watch and drink more alcohol when gaming.
Kelly said the esports industry is a lucrative platform for advertising of alcohol, gambling, energy drinks and fast food and should be brought into line with governance mechanisms associated with traditional sports to introduce greater scrutiny and governance.
“Our findings highlight four factors that make digital regulation a priority issue, the high prevalence of unhealthy product advertising, the monetisation and growth of esports, the complete absence of regulation, and last, but not least, the fact that more than half of the study cohort would be considered addicted gamers,” she said.
“Although competitive online gaming is still emerging in Australia, with an audience of four million people, our study has found esports is already a highly successful environment for alcohol companies to reach minors and young adults,” she said
“Esports could be brought into the sports tent and subject to all the rules and conventions that apply to ‘recognised’ sports.
“That is not in of itself a replacement for effective government regulation, but certainly worthy of consideration,” associate professor Kelly said.
The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) chief executive, Michael Thorn, said mainstream regulations fail to safeguard children from the targeted online advertising of alcohol brands and other harmful products.
“Our digital environments, which now include esports, are inundated with covert, ungated marking, giving alcohol companies unrestricted contact with children and adolescents.
“Alcohol marketers are capitalising on high-tech advertising models, trickery and tactics that target Australia’s love of sharing cultural and sporting moments, in life and online,” Thorn said.
The new research was presented at a forum hosted at Parliament House by FARE and the national End Alcohol Advertising in Sport campaign, confirming esports as the latest digital domain where participants are immersed in alcohol advertising.