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New research points to the harms of alcohol industry sponsorship of sport

31 January 2011

New research provides evidence that alcohol industry sponsorship is associated with more hazardous drinking in sportspeople compared to non-alcohol sponsorship.

Health scientists from Deakin University, Monash University, the University of Manchester and University of Western Sydney, asked Australian sportspeople about their drinking behaviours, sport participation, and what sorts of sport sponsorship they currently receive.

“This study provides new evidence of the harms associated with alcohol industry sponsorship of sport,” Deakin University researcher Dr Peter Miller said.

“We believe that any sporting association serious about the well-being of young people should support calls for governments to provide alternative funding.

“It’s simply not worth gambling with their future for the sake of some easy money.”

After accounting for other influences, receipt of alcohol industry sponsorship in various forms was associated with significantly higher levels of drinking. Receipt of similar forms of sponsorship from non-alcohol industries such as, building firms, food or clothing companies was not related to higher drinking levels.

Of the 30 per cent of sportspeople reporting receiving alcohol industry sponsorship, 68 per cent met World Health Organisation criteria for classification as hazardous drinkers.

The research, published online in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism, is the first to compare alcohol industry sponsorship to non-alcohol industry sponsorship.

Study lead Dr Kerry O’Brien said “The results will be unsurprising to sportspeople or the alcohol industry, but we wondered whether the financial resources provided from non-alcohol industry sponsors might also increase drinking through the simple provision of additional funds for young sportspeople to spend on alcohol. It didn’t. It seems specific to alcohol industry sponsorship.”

The research comes on the back of recent recommendations from the British Medical Association, Australian Preventative Health Taskforce, and New Zealand Law Commission to have alcohol advertising and sponsorship removed from sport in much the same way as tobacco was decades ago.

Figures from marketing analysts suggest that major alcohol companies spend up to 80 per cent of advertising and sponsorship budgets promoting alcohol via sports.

“Sport is being misused to promote alcohol to sportspeople and the general population. The public do not need more encouragement to drink, and there are ways of replacing alcohol advertising and sponsorship dollars in sport,"

"Much like was done with tobacco, a proportion of the excise duty currently gathered by governments from alcohol sales could be ring fenced (hypothecated) for funding sport and cultural events. This would replace alcohol industry funding many times over,” Dr O’Brien said.

Norway and France have had longstanding bans in place with little apparent effect on sport, and this year Turkey banned all alcohol advertising and sponsorship of sport. France successfully hosted the 1998 FIFA World Cup with their alcohol sponsorship and advertising ban in place, and currently host the multi-nation Heineken Cup Rugby competition, renamed the H-Cup in France.

“The Australian Federal government is taking promising steps in allocating $25 million to a trial program replacing alcohol industry sponsorship of community sports and cultural events, but it can be expanded considerably, and could be funded by alcohol excise duty.” Dr O’Brien said.

News facts
  • Research shows alcohol industry sponsorship is associated with more hazardous drinking in sportspeople
  • Calls for alternative funding for sporting associations

Media contact

Dr Peter Miller
School of Psychology
0429 024 844
peter.miller@deakin.edu.au

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16th February 2011