Should Alcohol Sponsorship be Banned?
26th November, 2012
The level of irresponsible drinking amongst young people in the UK is an area of constant concern for many with statistics reporting 945,000 hospital admissions a year related to alcohol abuse or injury. Following the ban of tobacco sponsorship in 2005 arose the debate as to whether alcohol sponsorship should follow suit and whether partnerships between alcohol brands and sports events influence young people to drink in excess.
At the Think!Sponsorship Conference on Wednesday 14th November leading sponsorship professionals and representatives from alcohol brands considered the increasingly important topic of whether the alcohol sponsorship ban should be bought into place within the UK. With alcohol sponsorship banned in France, this prompted me to consider whether the UK will be next to follow suit and what impact this could have for the sponsorship industry.
There is little doubt that sporting events have a strong association with alcohol. Sports such as rugby and football in particular lead people to view alcohol consumption in a negative light with fans often rowdy and drunk. Alcohol sponsorship could be said to reinforce the association of alcohol with events that are often considered family days out whilst watching sport for many comes hand in hand with enjoying a drink. With this connection already firmly in place it is argued that alcohol sponsorship only encourages young people to view alcohol brands and excessive consumption of their products in a positive light.
However, the opposing argument is that the problem with binge drinking amongst young people in particular at sporting events is as a result of cheap drinks deals and the traditional macho sporting culture rather than the presence of alcohol sponsorship. Furthermore, alcohol sponsors place a strong emphasis on drinking responsibly. The European Sponsorship Association has put numerous guidelines in place to introduce a notion of best practise with alcohol brands, for example, rights holders are advised to only allow sponsorship from alcohol brands if the audience are assumed to be older than the legal alcohol purchase age.
It is estimated that £800 million a year is spent by alcohol brands on sponsorship, if this money was no longer channelled towards sponsorship what would this mean for the sponsorship industry as a whole? Sponsorship agencies could lose key clients and rights-holders would lose a vast amount of revenue and the ability to hold events to the scale and quality they currently are at.
However, through dynamic and creative thinking this could also be an opportunity for new brands to get involved with sport sponsorship.
Whatever the future holds for alcohol brands, I believe the sponsorship industry will have no problem continuing to thrive as seen previously when we encountered the ban of tobacco sponsorship. If anything it will only force sponsorship professionals to continue to drive innovation forward.