As a matter of fact, I’ve got it now’: alcohol advertising and sport

Sport and alcohol advertising go hand in hand but once, so did tobacco ads and sport. It’s time to bring this to an end says Kerry O’Brien in a piece that first appeared on The Conversation.Beam

Sport is generally a healthy activity that transmits important societal values, such as fairness, perseverance and teamwork. Unfortunately, it’s also the primary vehicle for marketing alcohol to the general population.

At its best, sport can provide participants and fans with a sense of identity, pride and self-esteem. But a visitor to Australian shores would be forgiven for thinking that sport is a subsidiary of the alcohol, fast food and gambling industries.

Indeed, the majority of alcohol advertising and sponsorship – both in terms of frequency and time of advertising, as well as alcohol marketing expenditure – occurs in and around sport. In 2009, two of the world’s largest alcohol producers, Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller, spent approximately $350m and $212m respectively on television advertising during US sporting events alone. We are unable to obtain figures for Australia.

There are several reasons for the alcohol industry using sport for the promotion of alcohol consumption.

First, placement of alcohol sponsorship and advertising in large televised sporting events allows the alcohol industry to bypass regulations prohibiting alcohol advertising during times when large proportions of children may be watching television.

Victoria Bitter’s sponsorship of Australian cricket, for instance, means that children are exposed to alcohol advertising from 10 in the morning to the end of play. And it’s difficult to miss the alcohol brands on signage and boarding around Australian sports stadiums – or the VB signs either side of the electronic scoreboard each time a third umpire decision is needed.

Another feature that attracts the alcohol industry is sport’s ability to evoke strong emotion and social identification. Products presented within these sporting contexts are more likely to be remembered, liked and chosen.

Pairing a healthy activity, such as sport, with an otherwise unhealthy product, such as alcohol or fast food, makes that product seem less unhealthy and more acceptable and normal. Many of us will remember tobacco advertising in sport but I suspect that even smokers wouldn’t welcome that back.

Simply put, alcohol advertising and sponsorship in sport works in terms of increasing sales, and of course, alcohol consumption.

Reviews of research on the association between exposure to alcohol advertising and subsequent drinking intentions and behaviours shows that exposure to, and/or recall of, alcohol advertising and sponsorship by children and adolescents predicts their future drinking expectancies, norms, drinking intentions and hazardous drinking behaviours.

A study from the United States also found that ownership of alcohol-branded merchandise by children and adolescents (such as football shirts and sports caps) was associated with their early initiation into drinking. Similarly, alcohol industry sponsorship of sportspeople has been found to be associated with more hazardous drinking levels among Australian, New Zealand and UK sportspeople.

Beyond these outcomes, alcohol industry advertising and sponsorship in sport and other settings creates a culture where children perceive alcohol consumption as a normal everyday part of life. And they see it as something associated with sporting success or, indeed, being Australian.

Given the known relationship between alcohol advertising and youth drinking, researchers who assess drinking norms, peer influence and parental influence as predictors of young people’s drinking are in effect measuring people’s exposure to alcohol advertising and sponsorship.

Most of us didn’t grow up in a culture void of alcohol advertising and sponsorship, which makes it difficult for us to imagine sport without them. But given the high rates of hazardous drinking and associated problems in young people (violence, suicide, motor accidents), we probably don’t need to be giving them more encouragement to drink. The same was true for tobacco advertising and sponsorship in sport and few would now question the wisdom of banning such promotion.

The alcohol industry’s self-regulation of advertising has been shown to not work, and stronger regulation is clearly needed. Effective action is possible.

France has had a complete ban on alcohol advertising and sponsorship since 1991. Sport has not suffered and alcohol consumption has decreased in the past 20-odd years. Indeed, France even hosted the 1998 FIFA World Cup with this ban in place and enforced.

Similarly, Norway and Turkey have strong restrictions on alcohol advertising in sport, and South Africa is currently drafting a bill to ban all alcohol advertising and sponsorship in sport. It would be simple to do the same in Australia.

Naturally, “big sport” (AFL, NRL and cricket) and the alcohol industry will object to the removal of alcohol advertising and sponsorship, claiming grassroots sport will suffer. But the experience of nations where bans have been imposed suggests otherwise.

The Australian National Preventative Health Agency has successfully negotiated the removal of alcohol sponsorship from most of Australia’s major sporting codes (Football Federation of Australia, Netball Australia, Swimming Australia, Basketball Australia, Cycling Australia, Hockey Australia). But AFL, rugby league and union and cricket are resisting change.

Sport in Australia could still be funded by the alcohol, tobacco and fast-food industries, but through the ring-fencing of a small portion of the tax gathered from their sales. This would allow sport to thrive without the downside of also promoting unhealthy products to our children.

Dr Kerry O’Brien is the head of behavioural studies at Monash University and a contributor to The Conversation.

 

Encore issue 5

This story first appeared in the weekly edition of Encore available for iPad and Android tablets. Visit encore.com.au for a preview of the app or click below to download.

Comments


  1. JB
    4 Mar 13
    9:03 am

  2. An interesting article and proposition.

    It could be improved by the inclusion of sources for some of the research claims.

  3. Anonymous
    4 Mar 13
    9:59 am

  4. “Sport is generally a healthy activity that transmits important societal values, such as fairness, perseverance and teamwork. Unfortunately, it’s also the primary vehicle for marketing alcohol to the general population.”

    You are getting playing sport & watching sport confused.

  5. Groucho
    4 Mar 13
    10:12 am

  6. @Anonymous not true at all. The association is there whether playing or watching. Kids who play a particular sport are more likely to watch it, and even if they don’t they can’t help but see their heroes displaying alcohol brand labels. And, in too many cases try and emulate them on and off the field.

  7. paul the freelance writer
    4 Mar 13
    10:54 am

  8. ” … a visitor to Australian shores would be forgiven for thinking that sport is a subsidiary of the alcohol, fast food and gambling industries. … Indeed, the majority of alcohol advertising and sponsorship – both in terms of frequency and time of advertising, as well as alcohol marketing expenditure – occurs in and around sport. In 2009, two of the world’s largest alcohol producers, Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller, spent approximately $350m and $212m respectively on television advertising during US sporting events alone. We are unable to obtain figures for Australia.”

    Then why would “visitors to Australian shores” be forgiven blah blah blah when the quoted figure is from the US? A non sequitur worthy of the most disingenuous academic argument and an insult to the reader.

    The nanny state sails on with all the grace of the Queen Mary 2, unperturbed by trifles such as rational argument. Might as well get the Australian Carrot Growers’ Association to blanket sponsor all Australian sport and presumably we’d all be sitting around eating carrots day and night. Pass the avocado dip.

  9. AdGrunt
    4 Mar 13
    10:58 am

  10. Heineken has been a long sponsor of Rugby, notably the annual Heineken Cup (6-nations) in Europe involving France and played in France. Also notably the Rugby World Cup held in France in 2007 and elsewhere before and since.

    It’s also the false conflation of “in sport” to “in the community at large” that is the glaring fallacy here. Along with a lack of cited causality in any of the assertions, especially the oft-claimed mesmer effect of advertising. Have a look at Saffer H., Journal of health Economics, 1991 ; 10 ; p.65-79 amongst others to understand this.

    Dr O’Brien seems woefully unfamiliar with the demonstrable causal benefits of the “Loi Evin.” Nor the inverse effects of prohibition.

    Nor, conveniently, does he feel it necessary to cite any source for his claims, which whiff of fallacies.

    Studies more convincingly show that it is the parents and the home environment that influence the child’s later choice – http://tiny.cc/uu9dtw

    Dr O’Brien – if you only believe that advertising is an influence on behaviour, then of course, you’ll only find that advertising influences behaviour. Saying that “Norway and Turkey did it, so we should” marks you out as a weak thinker.

    I look forward to your sources to your rambling above and your longitudinal multi-variate study to actually make a supportable claim.

  11. Anonymous
    4 Mar 13
    11:06 am

  12. Sure, it’s there. For the bulk of adults watching AFL/NRL/V8SC/cricket/etc (“big sport”), however, it’s the tribalism/nationalism, ego & desire to smash the opposition that dominates (over the warm & fuzzy societal values). It’s part of the social fabric of just about every country in the world, and alcohol fits nicely into the equation (mostly without issue).

    I think alcohol & watching sport go hand in hand, and it’s the parents role to prevent their child from trying to emulate David Boon when they’re 13 years old.

  13. Bem
    4 Mar 13
    11:08 am

  14. Unfortunately, it’s an easy sell because in Australia bogans love their sport and they love their booze. These things go hand-in-hand. They drink while watching sport. It truly is ridiculous that advertisers get a free run of advertising alcohol to children because of sport. Let’s hope some tighter restrictions are put into place.

  15. Bustin Jeibers
    4 Mar 13
    1:57 pm

  16. Bem – ‘Bogans love their sport’. I am pretty sure the vast majority of male Australians love sport – and that same majority don’t mind a beer. Are we ALL ‘bogans’? No. So why even throw the word ‘bogan’ in there. Makes you sound ridiculous.

  17. Bem
    4 Mar 13
    4:58 pm

  18. @Bustin Jeibers- I’m the one who sounds ridiculous? You’re the one with the name Bustin Jeibers. I stand by what I said. I never once said ALL people who watch sport are bogans. I said bogans like sport and booze. Huge difference. The majority of alcohol advertising is appealing to the bogan demographic. And the majaority of alcohol advertising is during sport. Thus, why it’s an easy sell.

  19. jean cave
    5 Mar 13
    12:52 am

  20. I am not a drinker at all, but I once felt an overwhelming desire to take a drink of beer when outdoors on a Oz Road-Trip in a ute with no air-con. Australia has the climate for outdoor drinking. Sport is a complete irrelevance here. Put several people (not necessarily bogan) outdoors at ANY event and a cool-box will be included in the mix. This is to do with thirst primarily. When asked to imagine a group of downunder drinkers . . it is never made up of sports-people in my minds eye.

  21. Paul A
    7 Mar 13
    3:30 pm

  22. I think Dr O’Brien is to be commended and not to be confused with 4 Corners.

    This is the next big thing – the problem will be communicating it to the non-converted.

    In fact, that’s why I’m trying to garner support for my philanthropic Cause Related Marketing campaign “DRINKING IS NOT A SPORT”…

    Any takers?

    *Great article Mummy

  23. paul the freelance writer
    7 Mar 13
    5:40 pm

  24. No, it’s a pastime.