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The real role of beer sponsorship

On 13/09/13 by Daisy Blench (Policy Manager - Responsibility)

This week we have been inundated with news stories based on research from Newcastle University that claims that football fans see around two references to alcoholic drinks per minute when watching televised football.

The research team, from their public health department, also argue that that millions of children are exposed to this advertising making them more likely to take up drinking. The report which analysed six matches shown on BBC, ITV and Sky calls for tighter Government restrictions on alcohol sponsorship of sports and advertising during televised football.

Quite apart from the fact that the balance of evidence does not support a significant link between alcohol advertising exposure and consumption and the fact that key trends are all going in the right direction – total alcohol consumption down 12% since 2004, percentage of 11-15 years olds trying alcohol down 25% in the last decade, age of first drink now higher – this entirely ignores the huge importance of sports sponsorship and the unique role that the alcohol industry plays.

Income from sponsorship plays a vital role in supporting sporting activity at all levels. As the Government looks at how to make the Olympic legacy of encouraging greater participation in sport and to help develop the elite medal winners of the future a reality this support has never been more important.

A 2011 report by the Brewers of Europe puts the total financial contribution of Europe’s Brewers to sponsorship and community support at around €900 million.T his substantial figure is important in its own right in supporting participation in sports of all kinds and fostering emerging talent. The involvement goes far beyond the purely financial; to the core feature of promoting social responsibility in their sponsorship agreements ranging from development of grassroots sport to the active promotion of responsible consumption and retailing. This extra activity would be much less likely if the sponsorship was from another sector.

This includes the display of the Drinkaware logo alongside company branding driving traffic to the website, displaying customer unit awareness information, ensuring the availability of bottled water at matches and rigorous staff training regimes that prevent underage or irresponsible selling. All of these are tangible actions which brewers are committed to through their sports sponsorship and have clear benefits for fans.

At the FA cup semi-final weekend in 2012 traffic to the Drinkaware website was up 30% on the previous weekend due to the exposure given to it by the brand sponsor Budweiser. So a direct result of this sponsorship was a higher number of people accessing information on responsible drinking.

Advertising and sponsorship are already effectively governed by a comprehensive system of self-regulation through the Portman Group Code on packaging and marketing and the ASA Codes on broadcast and non-broadcast advertising which ensure that advertising is appropriately targeted and does not encourage irresponsible associations or content. Additionally, all broadcast alcohol advertisements are pre-approved before being aired.

Reports of this nature should be less quick to call for more regulation and should instead look at the real picture – the crucial importance of the funding from alcohol sport sponsors and the key role they play in promoting responsibility.


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