An unhealthy mix? Alcohol industry sponsorship of sport and cultural events

English | Cymraeg

17 January 2011

Note: This report was funded and/or written by our predecessor organisation Alcohol Concern.

Executive summary

Sponsorship of sporting and cultural events by the alcohol industry is common practice in Wales, and there is an ongoing debate between the industry and public health groups about the appropriateness of linking such events with the promotion of alcohol.

Like advertising and other forms of marketing, sponsorship gives alcohol companies a platform to develop positive associations with their products. There is a growing body of evidence which suggests that exposure to alcohol promotion is related to increased levels of consumption, and influences drinking intentions and our perceptions of what we consider to be normal drinking behaviours.

Moreover, by their very nature, sporting events such as football and rugby matches, and cultural events such as music concerts, typically have huge appeal to young people. Sponsorship of these events by alcohol companies helps to send the message that alcohol consumption is normal, and indeed necessary to fully enjoy them. This is especially worrying given that young people are particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of alcohol.

Alcohol Concern Cymru’s own focus group study, undertaken at Coleg Menai in Bangor in October 2010, found that young people’s awareness of alcohol sponsorship is high, but that they are often unconcerned about the ethics of alcohol sponsorship, and so exposed to it that they consider it a normal part of the sporting and cultural scene. This was particularly true in the case of sports sponsorship by the drinks industry.

Alcohol Concern argues that sponsorship and other forms of alcohol promotion and marketing normalise and, in many cases, glamorise the use of a damaging substance, and that tighter restrictions are urgently required to address increasingly harmful levels of alcohol consumption in Wales.

Although a total ban on all forms of alcohol marketing and advertising may seem an obvious solution in order to protect children and young people, there is insufficient evidence to support this approach at this time. However, the regulations set out in the French Loi Évin legislation provide an example of robust methods that could be adopted in Wales and the rest of the UK.