Drink Responsibly vs Serve Responsibly


Fokofpolisiekar is an alternative band popular among especially young Afrikaans speakers. The following disturbing post was noticed on their Facebook page: “Fokof Lager is running a national competition whereby a drinking venue as listed below could win a FREE #Fokofpolisiekar show for it’s patrons. The winning establishment will be determined by the amount of growth in #FokofLager sold over the May, June & July 2018. So put that rubber arm to good use, rally up your friends and support your local and get Fokofpolisiekar to perform live in your town! The Winning establishment will be announced in August 2018.”  

‘Fokof Lager’ is a craft beer that is currently being promoted among young South Africans. The two have paired in a very problematic marketing campaign which can contribute to harmful drinking amongst this targeted group.

Advertising which appeals to young people who are anti-establishment and a lack of enforced guidelines for retail, plays a major role in alcohol consumption among young people. According to Soul City Institute for Social Justice young people have admitted that alcohol advertisements entice them to drink and that young people’s views on alcohol advertising, marketing and availability have a direct influence on their drinking patterns and sexual behaviour. A 2016 study by Morgenstern and others found that higher rates of alcohol use and binge drinking among adolescents and young adults occur when they have higher exposure to alcohol advertisements using a partying theme, when compared to the amount of exposure to alcohol advertisements with non-party themes.

Alcohol abuse comes at a high social cost due to crimes like sexual and common assault, foetal alcohol syndrome and drunk driving among others. Alcohol can cause drinkers to misread and disregard the degree of sexual interest in their victim, potentially a key factor in rape and sexual assault. Combined with lowered inhibitions, this can lead to aggression when inaccurate expectations are not met.

Whilst alcohol should not be used as an excuse for those who perpetrate violence and abuse, neither should its influence be ignored. A study conducted by the World Health Organisation in 2012 found that one in every four women was physically abused by her intimate partner with 65% of women in South Africa reporting they had experienced spousal abuse. The study also showed their partners either always or sometimes used alcohol before the assault. Integrated, multi-sectoral strategies to shift social norms are required if we are to reduce the occurrence of interpersonal violence experienced by men and women. These crimes will continue and escalate unless retail, marketing and interpersonal behaviour changes and public health is valued above profit.

According to the Victims of Crime Survey Data report released by Stats SA, more females (71,3%) experienced sexual offence than their male (28,7%) counterparts; while more males (72,9%) experienced assault than females (27,1%) during 2014/15. The survey data found that most of these crimes are likely to occur either in the home or amongst people who know each other and with the influence of either alcohol or drugs. This implies that the crime strategies the police adopt is not enough.

This campaign by Fokof Lager and Fokofpolisiekar is a call to action to ‘drink more’, increase profit, establish the brand as anti-establishment (feeding into the rebellious nature of young people) and an excellent example of unethical marketing ploys used by alcohol companies to promote drinking by feeding into current macho masculine identities by using “put that rubber arm to good use”.

While much emphasis is put on  the message calling on people to drink responsibly, we believe that liquor outlets have a duty to serve alcohol responsibly and should not associate themselves with a reckless and potentially harmful campaign like this. The 14 participating venues are required by law to serve alcohol responsibly, and if the National Liquor Act is adopted, can be held liable for any injuries or death that occurs as a result of a person drinking excessively in one of these venues.

The Fokof Lager creed itself is problematic: “You will never be the same again. You reading this is no coincidence. Your passion for liberation from the materialistic clutches of this capitalist construct guided you to independence. You are free. You are now. Your thoughts are a machete hacking through the veil of mediocrity maintained by the shadow elite. Your power-animal is a raised fist. Your middle finger, a burning flag. Your voice, a weapon of distant screaming, FOKOF! into the furrowed faces of our oppressor overlords. The spirit of FOKOF has led you to the water, you magnificent bastard. Now drink from the fountain of progression or.. you know… This is just a lager, buddy, Fukn have a few.”

It is time for everyone to contribute to changing how South Africans drink – safer retailing, restricted advertising, responsible branding and less profit driven serving of alcoholic beverages. It is time for government to act to protect lives and reduce injuries and deaths. Ban advertising and create a less reckless social environment in which people drink. 

It is also time for popular musicians like Fokofpolisiekar band members to be the role models society requires them to be and to support behaviour change among young people, rather than calling on young people to drink recklessly in the name of what they perceive to be good PR and marketing.

Dr Coenie Louw is the founder of Gateway Health Institute, Elmarie Nel is currently a Chief Research Technologist/Project Manager at the Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Research Unit (ATODRU) of the South African Medical Research Council and Aadielah Diedericks is a public health advocate and coordinates the Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance