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Victoria Bitter abandons cricket sponsorship after two decades

Cricket Australia has confirmed its relationship with Victoria Bitter has come to an end after two decades, with a new alcohol brand expected to be named as the game’s major partner within weeks.

The partnership which gave rise to the talking Boonie and Warnie Dolls, and played a major role in the summer marketing campaigns for VB came to an end quietly with the closure of the Australian cricket season earlier this year and the series against Pakistan.

Sources have confirmed the end of the VB sponsorship of the One Day International Team and the domestic cricket series by the beer.

An announcement on a new sponsor would be made in coming weeks and that it would be an alcohol sponsor.

Sponsorship by the Carlton & United Breweries flagship brand has been a central pillar to Cricket Australia’s sponsorship strategy since VB first came on board in 1997.

The brand wrapped its summer marketing around the beer, tieing branding on uniforms and at grounds back to activations such as the Boonie Doll, Cricket Watch, live cricket scoreboard and commemorative cans.

VB’s last campaign linked to cricket featured commemorative cans.

Last season the brand continued its drift away from using gadgets with the launch of a series of cans celebrating “Hard Earned Moments”.

Sources confirmed the decision to walk away from Cricket Australia after 20 years had been made for “commercial reasons”.

They said while the brewer would continue to support the NRL with VB and the AFL with Carlton Draught, summer marketing for VB would now be advertising led rather than relying on sponsorship.

“There will be more of a focus on direct advertising,” he said.

Cricket Australia is expected to announce a new “alcohol” sponsor early next month but will not confirm if it will be another beer brand.

The juxtaposition of sport and alcohol sponsorship remains a challenge for marketers and sporting codes with health advocates fighting for an end to sports sponsorship by beer, wine and spirit brands.

The move by CUB to abandon cricket has been hailed buy the Royal Australasian College of Physicians which said children were being “bombarded” by alcohol ads while watching sport.

RACP president Catherine Yelland said the sport should use the move by CUB as an opportunity to move away from relying on alcohol as a revenue stream.

“It is well and truly time for Cricket Australia to consider a major sponsor that does not normalise alcohol for Australian children and is more aligned with the spirit of our national sport,” Yelland said.

“A generation of Australians have grown up and become accustomed to a sponsorship that has relentlessly pushed its product and left young Australians as collateral damage. Sadly, we know alcohol marketing leads children and adolescents to start drinking earlier and makes young drinkers prone to binge drinking patterns.”

Mumbrella has approached CUB for comment.

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