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Alcohol sports sponsorship

Alcohol brands were the second largest source of sponsorship funding from 2003 to 2006 in the UK, behind only the financial services sector.[1] Many high-profile events broadcast in the UK are currently sponsored by alcohol brands, including the FA and World Cups, UEFA Champions’ League, Rugby World Cup and Formula 1, and concerns have been raised about the high number of children this advertising may reach.[2] Carlsberg have been a sponsor of the England football team since 1986, and will sponsor the team at the 2018 World Cup[3] while Team GB were sponsored by Strongbow for the 2016 Olympic Games.[4] It has been reported that the jump in UK beer sales experienced during the Euro 2016 tournament was equivalent to an extra 31 million pints consumed by the country between April and June, compared to the same period in the previous year.[5] As well as this, Formula 1 racing has been found to have “the highest level of alcohol brand exposure of any sports event reported in peer reviewed literature.”[6]

Evidence suggests there is an association between alcohol sports sponsorship and harmful drinking among schoolchildren and sportspeople. A 2016 systematic literature review[7] assessing the evidence on the relationship between alcohol sports sponsorship and alcohol consumption found that of seven studies investigated[8], [9], [10], [11], [12], [13], [14] all indicated that exposure to alcohol sports sponsorship is associated with increased levels of consumption and risky drinking amongst schoolchildren and sportspeople.

The seven studies investigated presented findings for 12,760 people in several high-income countries (Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Poland) with data collected between 2006 and 2012, The reliability of results varied across the studies. Two of the studies included were conducted in the UK. A study of 2,048 sportspeople from several universities found those receiving alcohol industry sponsorship were four times more likely to report hazardous drinking than non-sponsored sportspeople. The second UK study surveyed 294 Welsh schoolchildren in Year 10 (aged 14/15), finding awareness of alcohol sports sponsorship was linked to a 17% higher chance of boys, and 13% higher chance of girls getting drunk at the weekend. When the same schoolchildren had both positive attitudes towards alcohol and awareness of alcohol sports sponsorship, the chances of getting drunk at the weekend were 26% higher for boys and 27% higher for girls.

One other study included in this analysis investigated an association between alcohol sports sponsorship and harmful drinking in schoolchildren; in a multi-country study of children aged 13–14 years, it was shown that exposure to alcohol branded sports sponsorship was associated with increases in the expectancy of positive effects from alcohol and drinking in the last 30 days.

Major medical and public health institutions in the UK currently call for a ban of alcohol sports sponsorship. Bans are in place in France and Norway, and the governments of Republic of Ireland and New Zealand are considering proposals.[15], [16]


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[1] www.parliament.uk, ‘Alcohol First Report of Session 2009–10, Volume I’, House of Commons Health Committee

[2] The Guardian (December 2014) “Protect Children – stop alcohol sponsorship of sport” Retrieved December 2016 <https://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/dec/25/protect-children-stop-alcohol-sponsorship>

[3] Carlsberg, ‘Official Beer of England’, retrieved October 2016 <http://www.carlsberg.co.uk/#!football|uefa-euro-2016-football/4471-official-beer-of-england>

[4] The Guardian (August 2016) “Olympic sponsorship and alcohol don’t mix” Retrieved December 2016 <https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/aug/07/olympic-sponsorship-and-alcohol-dont-mix>

[5] Green, M., (July 2016) ‘Euro 2016 helps beer sales to grow 4.8%’, Off Licence News, retrieved October 2016 <http://offlicencenews.co.uk/news/fullstory.php/aid/15903/Euro_2016_helps_beer_sales_to_grow_4.8_25.html>

[6] Institute of Alcohol Studies, Eurocare, and Monash University, (May 2015) ‘Alcohol advertising and sponsorship in Formula One: A dangerous cocktail’ pp. 3

[7] Brown, K (2016) Association between Alcohol Sports Sponsorship and Consumption: A Systematic Review Alcohol and Alcoholism 2016 1–9

[8] O'Brien and Kypri (2008), ‘Alcohol industry sponsorship and hazardous drinking among sportspeople’ Addiction,103(12)

[9] Davies (2009), ‘An investigation into the effects of sporting involvement and alcohol sponsorship on underage drinking’ International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship, 11(1)

[10] O'Brien et al (2011) ‘Alcohol industry and non-alcohol industry sponsorship of sportspeople and drinking’, Alcohol and Alcoholism, vol46:2

[11] De Bruijn et al (2012) Report on the impact of European alcohol marketing exposure on youth alcohol expectancies and youth drinking, AMPHORA report

[12] Kelly et al (2014) ‘The impact of alcohol sponsorship in sport upon university sportspeople’, Journal of Sports Management,28

[13] Kingsland et al (2013) ‘Alcohol consumption and sport: A cross-sectional study of alcohol management practices associated with at–risk alcohol consumption at community football clubs’, BMC Public Health,13:762

[14] O'Brien et al (2014) ‘Alcohol industry sponsorship and hazardous drinking in UK university students who play sport’, Addiction,109:1647–1654

[15] House of Oireachtas (2013) Joint Committee on Transport and Communications report on sponsorship of sports by the alcoholic drinks industry

[16] New Zealand Ministry of Health (2014) ‘Ministerial Forum on Alcohol Advertising and Sponsorship: Recommendations on Alcohol Advertising and Sponsorship’