Nearly Half of Energy Drink Ads Air on Teen-Themed TV

More than 608 hours of energy drink advertisements were aired on 139 network and cable channels during a recent 11-month period, and, of these, 46.5 percent appeared on networks with content themes likely to appeal to teens, according to a new study.

Researchers at Dartmouth College examined the database of television advertisements in 2012 and 2013.

“Although our results do not support the idea that manufacturers intentionally target adolescents with their advertising, ads for energy drinks were primarily aired on channels with themes likely to appeal to adolescents, and adolescents are likely exposed to energy drink advertising via television,” said lead researcher Jennifer A. Emond, Ph.D., Department of Community and Family Medicine, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth.

Energy drinks, including shots and drops, typically contain caffeine at levels greater than traditional soda and other ingredients meant to stimulate energy. The caffeine content in these drinks can be as high as 200 mg per 16-oz serving.

Although generally recognized as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, high caffeine intake among teens has been linked to many negative health effects, some of which could be quite serious for individuals with underlying health conditions.

In 2013, both the American Medical Association and the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee supported banning the marketing of energy drinks to teens because of potential health risks related to the consumption of high amounts of caffeine. Until now, there have been very few studies to document the promotional practices of energy drink manufacturers on U.S. television.

For the study, researchers identified the 10 channels that devoted the most airtime to energy drink advertising. Based on audience demographic data reported by a cable advertising trade group, six of the top 10 channels included adolescents as young as 12 years old in their primary target audience.

The top network, MTV2, aired 2,959 minutes of energy drink advertisements (8.1 percent of all energy drink ad airtime); the proportion of 12- to 17-year-olds in MTV2’s base audience was 398 percent greater than the average network audience in the United States.

Although this study focused only on TV ads and singled out data from the top 10 networks, the findings are important for nutrition educators and practitioners.

As the energy drink market is rapidly growing with a high volume of advertisements being shown across platforms, researchers believe teens need to be made aware of the potential dangers of drinking  energy drinks and informed of their potential health risks.

Source: Elsevier Health Sciences