A study released today finds an association between alcohol sponsorship of sport and risky drinking amongst schoolchildren and adult athletes. Published in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism, this systematic review combines evidence from the UK and other countries on the impact of exposure to alcohol sports sponsorship on drinking behaviours.

Seven studies were included in the review that presents findings from 12,760 people in high-income countries including the UK, Australia and New Zealand. All the studies indicate that exposure to alcohol sports sponsorship is associated with increased levels of alcohol consumption and risky drinking amongst schoolchildren and sportspeople.

Two of the studies were conducted in the UK. Their findings were:

  • Amongst Welsh schoolchildren in Year 10 (age 14-15), 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.
  • Amongst UK university sportspeople, those receiving alcohol industry sponsorship were four times more likely to report hazardous drinking than non-sponsored sportspeople.

The report also includes a study of schoolchildren aged 13-14 from four EU countries which found exposure to alcohol sports sponsorship through viewing a major football tournament was linked to 70% increased chance of underage drinking.

The report’s author, Katherine Brown, is Director of the Institute of Alcohol Studies. She said:

“It is of great concern to see that sport, which should be viewed as a healthy, family friendly activity, is potentially putting our children and athletes at risk due to sponsorship deals with alcohol companies.

“There is strong evidence that exposure to alcohol marketing leads young people to drink at an earlier age and to drink more if they already do so. This is why the OECD and World Health Organisation have called on governments to investigate the introduction of alcohol advertising bans.

“Major alcohol brands are prominent in almost every high profile sporting event today, exposing millions of children to advertising and building positive associations that could be damaging in the long term.”

Read the full article in Alcohol and Alcoholism.