Aim: To explore participation with alcohol marketing (i.e. commenting on brand statuses) and user-created promotion on social media (i.e. photos of peers drinking) by young people in the United Kingdom (UK), and what association this has with higher-risk consumption and brand identification.
Method: Online cross-sectional survey with 11–19-year olds in the UK (n = 3,399) (average age: 15 years old). Past-month participation was measured for five forms of alcohol marketing on social media and one form of user-created promotion (all Yes/No). Past-month awareness of nine wider alcohol marketing activities, social media apps used at least weekly, and ownership of branded merchandise were included as covariates. Outcomes included higher-risk consumption in current drinkers (≥5 AUDIT-C) and brand identification in all respondents (8 pictures with brand names removed).
Results: Over one-in-ten respondents (13.2%) had participated with at least one form of marketing on social media or participated with user-created promotion (12.2%). For both, participation was greater in current drinkers and those of legal purchasing age. A logistic regression found that participation with two or more forms of marketing on social media (AOR = 1.96, p < .01) and participation with user-created promotion (AOR = 3.46, p < .001) were associated with higher-risk drinking. Respondents, on average, identified 2.58 (SD = 2.12) alcohol brands. A linear regression found participation with marketing on social media was not associated with brand identification (β = 0.01, p = .42) but participation with user-created promotion was (β = 0.05, p < .001).
Conclusion: Social media provides opportunities for adolescents to participate with commercial marketing and user-created promotion and this is associated with higher-risk consumption and brand identification.