Drink Tank

Being a champion

When you’re running a health promotion campaign targeted at young people and related to alcohol, there can be a fair amount of suspicion at first.

The assumption is often that those running the campaign are advocating for lifetime abstinence from alcohol and that the messages they preach are too heavy-handed, overly negative, and even morbid at times.

When the team of young people tasked with promoting the Champions ACT campaign to young patrons in local, licensed venues first set out, we certainly had to develop some trust with the young patrons we approached.

The running in-joke amongst promotional team members became ‘we don’t want your money, we don’t wanna sign you up to a mailing list, and we’re not trying to convert you. We just wanna tell you to be a Champion’.

Promoting the campaign became much easier when young patrons learnt that the main message of Champions ACT wasn’t an anti-drinking one, but a simple, strengths-based one: be a Champion and look after your friends when you’re out.

When the Champions ACT team first surveyed 186 young people in a variety of Canberra venues as part of our initial three-month evaluation period, 77% of survey participants identified that a friend is their ‘Champion’ when they go out drinking.

In another survey conducted for our six-month evaluation period, 152 young people were surveyed. Of this number, when asked what contributes to them feeling safer when out drinking, 65% responded that their friends were what made them feel safer.

Further to the surveys, ‘Dutch Courage: Young People, Alcohol and Alcohol-Related Violence’ – a 2010 report prepared by Dr. Justin Barker for the Youth Coalition of the ACT – identified that shame and embarrassment are more motivating factors for behavioural change than, for example, getting into trouble with the police.

So for the campaign’s promotional team, often all they have to do when trying to engage a group of young patrons is ask ‘who’s your Champion?’ Groups of friends will debate which individual friend has had to get another intoxicated friend home the most number of times before conclusively declaring ‘I’m the Champion!’

Other times, groups of friends realise that there isn’t a group Champion – no designated driver, no one with enough clarity to order water instead of another spirit or call it a night when all anyone can do is go home. And those without Champions realise they might well need one.

From everything we’ve learnt on the Champions ACT campaign, we know that friends look out for friends and we know that tapping into the inner-Champion of every young Canberran will lead to less violence and vomit, fewer hospitalisations and police call-outs, and fewer unflattering drunk photos appearing on Facebook the morning after.

To find out more about the Champions ACT campaign, go to www.championsact.net, or visit the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/champsact or the Twitter account at www.twitter.com/champs_act.

This month the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education is the Official On-Screen Partner for the One Direction ‘Take Me Home’ Australian Tour: 5th, 6th, 16th, 19th, 20th, 23rd, 24th, 25th, 26th, 29th & 30th October 2013.

To celebrate, FARE is asking people to tell the story of the best alcohol-free night of their lives.

Jacob Wray

Jacob Wray

Jacob is a Project Officer at the Youth Coalition of the ACT, the territory’s peak body for youth affairs. Jacob has worked on the Champions ACT campaign since September 2012, which aims to encourage young people to look after their friends when out drinking. He will also be the ACT National Youth Week Coordinator for 2014 and previously advised the New Youth Wales Minister for Youth.

4 comments

  • Hi Jacob,

    Great article and I agree with the fact we can’t come across as anti-alcohol for young people who are old enough to access alcohol legally. Looking after mates is essential when having a good time is involving alcohol. Great article,

    Sincerely

    Sam

    • Thanks, Sam! It was hard to follow such a great article on DrinkTank, but still a fantastic opportunity to talk about positive messaging!

      Jacob

  • Nice work Jacob. It will be interesting how enduring the campaign’s effects will be on the young people with whom have contact. Is this case of if you take your foot off the brake the car will simple speed up – again. Or will your messages have achieved sustained behaviour change. What do you think?

    • Thanks, Michael! Really great question, too. We’ve definitely found that keeping momentum going is really, really important in continuing to build recognition. The hard thing about behavioral change is that it’s so difficult to measure. During all our evaluation periods so far, we’ve found that recognition of the campaign has increased, but we can’t say for sure that it’s changed behaviour. We hope that if we keep building momentum that the messaging will translate into something more sustained.

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