Researchers want alcohol sponsorship of major sporting events banned

By Online News - Rereātea

The government and sporting organisations are being urged to ban alcohol sponsorship of major sporting events in New Zealand.

Researchers from the University of Otago, Wellington made the call after analysing the nature and extent of alcohol sport sponsorship over a summer of televised sport in New Zealand from 2014/15.

Associate Professor Louise Signal says, “Due to alcohol sponsorship of sport, New Zealanders, including children, were exposed to up to 200 ads per hour they watched televised sport, and people watching football and tennis saw alcohol ads for almost half of each game.”

Researchers highlighted the considerable harm caused by alcohol which includes violence, injury, mental health problems and cancer.

Associate Professor Signal says, “More than a third of young New Zealanders ‘binge drink’ (six or more drinks on one occasion), one in five binge drink every week.”

“Sport sponsorship bypasses traditional marketing and gets around the current advertising codes, Children see their sporting heroes linked with alcohol. In New Zealand we have already agreed that alcohol should not be marketed to children by traditional marketing. Why should we allow it with sports sponsorship?”

The study looked at a number of televised events which included a Rugby League 9s test match, an Australian Open Final, the Asian Cup Final, Football Ferns International friendly and an International Cricket Council ODI Cricket World Cup Final match.

The recommendations support a previous call for a ban on alcohol sponsorship of sport from the 2014 Ministerial Forum on Alcohol Advertising chaired by Graham Lowe.

Assistant Research Fellow at the University of Otago, Wellington, Tim Chambers says “Audiences were exposed to between 1.6 and 3.8 alcohol brand exposures per minute. Alcohol brands were visible between 42 and 777 times across the games examined. For three out of the five events alcohol brands were visible for almost half of the game.”

Researchers say there are many healthy sponsors that could replace alcohol and have called on both sporting organisations and politicians to actively investigate the possibility of banning alcohol sponsorship of sporting. 

Spirits New Zealand Chief Executive Robert Brewer released a statement and says the study has ignored what is really happening to drinking in New Zealand.

“The study basically says that young New Zealanders’ exposure to alcohol signage at fixtures like cricket and tennis internationals is excessive and that this leads to harmful consumption.

“This could not be further from the truth.”

 Brewer says Ministry of Health research shows harmful drinking among younger drinkers in New Zealand is on the decrease.

“Young people are choosing to drink less, to start drinking later in life and not to binge drink – something which the study has chosen to ignore.”

The study has been published in the NZ Medical Journal.