Doctors: March Madness Booze Ads in College Newspapers Unhealthy

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Full-page ads in college newspapers Friday call on university leaders, athletic conferences and the NCAA to “stop the madness” by banning alcohol marketing from college sports.

The ads, tied to March Madness and sponsored by the American Medical Association, were scheduled to run in college papers in six cities, in advance of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

The low-budget campaign placed $17,000 worth of ads in the Chronicle of Higher Education and student newspapers at Georgia Tech, University of Iowa, University of Wisconsin, Indiana University, the Daily Mississippian at Ole Miss and DePaul University.

“The truly insane thing about March basketball is all the money universities get from alcohol advertising,” the ad reads. An illustration shows cheering sports fans holding signs reading: “STOP THE MADNESS.”

The ad claims that the alcohol industry spent more than $52 million to advertise its products during televised college sports in a recent year.

Spokesman Bob Williams said the NCAA limits alcohol ads to one minute per hour of broadcast, won’t allow ads for hard liquor and encourages “responsibility themes and messages” in the ads.

The beer industry maintains the NCAA tournament draws a largely adult TV audience, citing Nielsen Media Research figures showing that 89 percent of viewers of last year’s tournament were adults, with a median age of 48.

“Sports fans tend to be beer drinkers and therefore we’re going to try to advertise to that audience,” said Jeff Becker, president of the Beer Institute, a trade association.

Becker said the industry contributes money to campus programs that fight underage drinking, and banning beer ads from games would do nothing to solve that problem.

College policies vary. Chicago’s DePaul University accepts no money from alcohol manufacturers and gets no money from beer sales at Allstate Arena, where the Blue Demons play, said university spokesman John Holden.

Allstate Arena is not on the DePaul campus.

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