Assessment of alternative models of regulation of alcohol marketing in Belgium

Research Period

August 2016 – March 2018


Belgian Federal Science Policy Office


Ruben KRAMER (in cooperation with VAD and Univers Santé)

Key Words

alcohol, models of regulation, marketing



Alcohol use results in a plethora of avoidable medical, psychological and social harm (Hastings & Angus, 2009; Anderson et al., 2012; WHO, 2014). Meanwhile, over the years, the marketing for alcohol has grown (Jernigan, 2001 ). In particular, alcohol marketing communications come in many forms, from traditional advertisements on television, via new media such as social network sites and viral campaigns to sponsorship of sporting and music events and product placement (Institute of Alcohol Studies, 2013). Beyond advertising, other integrated consumer marketing strategies are used as well including pricing, distribution and product design to develop and manage brands, and these also promote consumption. Both longitudinal studies (long term effects) (Anderson et al., 2009, Smith & Foxcroft, 2009) as well as experimental studies (short term effects) (Koordeman et al., 2009) indicate that exposure to alcohol advertising lead to drinking problems in minors, they also make it harder for alcohol addicts to stay sober since a larger volume of alcohol marketing correlates significantly with stronger cravings for alcohol.

As alcohol marketing is one possible determinant of alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harm, regulation of alcohol marketing is an important policy tool to protect (young) people against exposure to alcohol advertising or marketing and subsequent alcohol use. Even though Belgium has been a valuable partner in monitoring the existing alcohol marketing regulations in Europe (see e.g. ELSA and FASE projects; Collard et al.,2013; De Donder, 2014), the general objective of our study is to contribute to a better understanding of strengths, weaknesses and conditions of the Belgian alcohol regulating system against the existing knowledge in this domain. In particular, this study will describe and critically examine the regulation in Belgium and also the system that supports it. In the light of the feasibility and effectiveness of alternative policy options and interventions  as documented in the existing (European) studies, our aim is to develop a "best fit design" for Belgium taking into account the specificities of the Belgian context and the views of all stakeholders involved.

Following research questions result out of these aims:

(1)    How is the marketing for alcohol regulated in Belgium?

(2)    How is the marketing for alcohol regulated in other (6) European countries?

(3)    What are the pros and cons of each of the (alternative) regulation systems?

(4)    Which marketing regulation system can be considered as a "best fit design" for Belgium taking into account the specificities of the Belgian context and the views of all stakeholders involved?



In the first phase, relevant (inter)national literature will be collected and analysed. The focus of the literature review is on peer reviewed publications, meta-analyses of studies on marketing strategies for alcohol, relevant grey literature and internal documents. In addition to the literature review, exploratory interviews will be conducted with (inter)national experts. Special attention will be paid to:

(1)    An overview of alcohol marketing regulations in Belgium

(2)     An overview of alcohol marketing regulations in 6 European countries (Finland, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland and the United Kingdom)

(3)     The development of a framework to examine the effectiveness of alcohol marketing policies

The second phase builds on the identification and examination of the pros and cons of the alternative systems. In-depth interviews al low us to identify and to understand stakeholders' perceived needs and to explore their views and experiences regarding barriers and challenges of different alcohol marketing regulative systems (Neale et al., 2005). The in-depth interview will be followed by administration of a standardized small-scale questionnaire. The questionnaire will focus on several themes that appear to be relevant from the international literature: effectiveness content restrictions, volume restrictions and supporting regulatory system.



  • VLAEMYNCK, M. (2016). Alternative regulations for alcohol marketing. Towards a ‘best-fit’ design for Belgium. Poster presented at the 7th European Alcohol Policy Conference (EAPC), Ljubljana (Slovenia), 21-23 November 2016.