SADD Liquor Bag Campaign
Stop by a liquor store on the May long weekend and you just might take home the artwork of an Alberta student: a paper liquor bag with a hand-drawn design highlighting the dangers of impaired driving.
“When it comes to impaired driving, the information is clear,” says Eric Baich, Director of Social Responsibility with the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC). “There’s no one in the province who isn’t aware that they shouldn’t drive while impaired. So the question then is, if everyone knows this, why does the behaviour continue?”
These liquor bags are a creative way of addressing this ongoing problem. Now in its sixth year, the annual liquor bag campaign is a partnership between Students Against Drinking and Driving (SADD Alberta) and the AGLC. More than 65,000 students from kindergarten to grade 12 throughout Alberta participated by creating and drawing their own message on liquor bags against drinking and driving on Schools submit their top designs and winners are chosen from each of the three school categories (elementary, junior high, and high school). One grand prize winner is selected and will have their design printed on one million bags, which will be distributed to participating liquor stores for May long weekend.
Part of what makes the bags so effective is that they are designed by kids. “When youth speak, it’s coming from the heart,” says Baich. “It’s an unfiltered, real and honest approach. When you think of messages that come from adults, they can be polished and planned out, whereas kids often just say what they truly think and feel–and it’s very powerful.”
The road to preparing the bags for the May long weekend actually begins before Christmas. Teachers in participating schools distribute the liquor bags designed by students to select liquor stores in their community to remind patrons not to drink and drive during the Christmas season. Arthur Lee, community liaison with SADD Alberta, notes that’s another reason why the bags have such a great impact.
“At the top of each bag the students write which school they are from,” Lee explains. “So, as people are going and shopping at their favourite liquor store, they see that the message is from a student from their local school just up the road. It then hits them a little bit closer to home, as it’s not a marketing campaign from corporate headquarters in the US.”
The campaign has grown steadily since its inception in 2012. This year, 299 schools participated across the province, up from only 59 in the first year. Lee notes that the campaign is particularly popular in outlying and rural communities.
The bags have certainly been noticed by the communities that receive them. Lee remarks that last year they even received a letter from a Calgary resident, thanking them for sharing this important message. They’ve also started a social media campaign on Instagram using the hashtag #SADDbag, sharing some of the designs that students have created.
Students have free creative licence over their designs and Lee says it’s always intriguing to see what they come up with. “The students have some very good messages and every year we’re surprised at the creativity, ideas and messages that the students come up with,” he says. “The winning bag has a great design, a powerful message that evokes an emotion and it’s easy to understand and relate to.”
The SADD liquor bag campaign not only reinforces the dangers of impaired driving to the adults who receive the bags, but it also promotes the message to future generations who will have known about this for years before they can legally drive a car or buy alcohol.
“We can educate students before they get their driver’s licence, so when they go for their driver’s exams, they’re not getting the message just as they’re doing their test; they’ve known about it for years,” says Lee.
Baich agrees, noting that the campaign is a great way for the AGLC to promote its message of responsible drinking amongst existing legal drinkers and to
influence future ones as well.
“Every year there’s a new group of 18-year-olds that become legal drinkers in Alberta,” says Baich. “If you think of those 18-year-olds, you hope they’ve learned the skills to make decisions and set limits, especially when it comes to alcohol.”
“It also plants a seed in the minds of all the young people who are involved. The schools have important discussions that are valuable in the growth and maturation of their students,” Baich continues. “Ideally they’ll put those tools to use so when alcohol comes into their lives, they’ll make good decisions and not drive while impaired.”
For more information about the SADD Liquor Bag campaign or to have SADD visit your school, visit saddalberta.com.