The Association for Alcohol Responsibility and Education (aware.org.za) has launched its official Underage Drinking Campaign. This campaign is Aware.Org’s first multi-platform harm reduction education and awareness campaign of its scale that aims to curb underage drinking.

Underage drinking is one of the most serious challenges facing our children today. Aware.org wants to shine the spotlight on this epidemic with this campaign and in so, deliver on their mandate to realise a culture of harm reduction in South Africa and affect positive change.

Underage drinking is on the rise

“Underage drinking is reaching alarming levels with South African children drinking from as young as 10 years of age – and this is an issue that is prevalent across the board in South Africa. Our country is the sixth-largest consumer of alcohol in the world. To tackle this problem, we need to start the conversation earlier, and encourage every single person in South Africa to realise that they have a role to play. We believe this will ultimately see real impact on the ground. Past campaigns, which used shock tactics and sought to wag the finger at people have not been effective,” says Ingrid Louw, CEO of aware.org.

Aware.org CEO Ingrid Louw
Aware.org CEO Ingrid Louw

Kabelo Mabalane will be the face of the campaign

The national harm reduction campaign, with Kabelo Mabalane as its ambassador, is informed by evidence-based in-depth research. Mabalane is someone who has suffered from alcohol and drug abuse. He has since turned around his life and he is now a positive role model to many. At the launch he shared the story of how his grandmother and her friend used to get plastered in front of him.

Underage drinking starts long before it begins

The campaign underpinned by the message ‘Underage drinking starts long before it begins. You can stop it.’ is built on the insight that many people’s first exposure to alcohol is usually at a young age and is generally enabled by parents and/ or other caregivers.

According to Dr Candice Groenewald of the HSRC, 81% of young adults between the ages of 14 and 17 have used alcohol in the past. 34% of those young adults consumed alcohol at least once a week.

This enablement can be explicit or subtle, ranging from a widespread culture of drinking for all occasions, acknowledging the coming of age, allowing “child sipping” at home, to just ignoring it when underage drinking happens.

An Integrated Campaign

Aware.org has brought this insight to life through an integrated campaign championed by radio and television adverts crafted to challenge all South Africans to re-examine the role that they play in the choices that children make. A series of scenes and experiences are captured where children, caught in various situations, are introduced to their first alcoholic drink in what is shown to be a pervasive culture of drinking in the South African context. In each scene, the catalyst is an older relative such as a parent or older sibling who either directly encourages or, in a more subtle way, enables the first drink.

In addition to television and radio commercials, the campaign will be rolled out on billboards, print media and social media, keeping the conversation going by encouraging all South Africans to share their stories under the hashtag #MyFirstDrinksStory.

Do you remember your first sip of alcohol? Join the conversation on social media.

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Thokozani Patrick Mahlangu

Thokozani Mahlangu is an internationally certified digital marketing professional and an Mcom Business Management graduate from the University of Johannesburg. He is the Chief Brand Creator of Pat onBrands and Pat onFitness- a fitness movement through which organizes weekly runs under the banner #RunWithPat.

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