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Energy drink marketing does 'give you wings'

News, 15 May 2017
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VANCOUVER/PARIS: The mere marketing of energy drinks as mixed with alcohol ends up making young men feel more intoxicated and uninhibited than they actually are, a new study has revealed.

That is according to researchers from the University of British Columbia and the France-based INSEAD Business School, who conducted tests on 154 young men who were each given a cocktail containing vodka mixed with either the Red Bull energy drink or fruit juice.

Participants who drank cocktails described as "vodka-Red Bull cocktails" went on to display behaviour that showed their perceived levels of intoxication had been significantly heightened. They showed increased willingness for risk-taking and sexual self-confidence although, more positively, they were also less likely to drive because they thought they were too drunk.

"Red Bull has long used the slogan 'Red Bull gives you wings,' but our study shows that this type of advertising can make people think it has intoxicating qualities when it doesn't," said Yann Cornil, the study's lead author and assistant professor at the UBC Sauder School of Business.

"When alcohol is mixed with an energy drink and people are aware of it, they feel like they're more intoxicated simply because the marketing says they should feel that way," he added.

In effect, the research confirmed the powerful influence of marketing on consumer behaviour and showed how the labelling of the cocktails helped to drive expectations about their effects rather than the ingredients themselves.

This particular finding prompted co-author Pierre Chandon, a marketing professor at INSEAD Business School, to call for much stricter controls on the marketing of energy drinks.

"Given the study's findings about the psychological effects of energy-drink marketing, energy drink marketers should be banned from touting the disinhibiting effects of their ingredients," he said. "Regulations and codes of conduct should consider the psychological – and not just the physiological – effects of products."

Data sourced from UBC, INSEAD; additional content by WARC staff

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