Topics: Entertainment, Health, Youth

Alcohol sponsorship could be banned from NZ sports codes

By Peata Melbourne

The researchers, Associate Professor Louise Signal and Tim Chambers, Assistant Research Fellow at the University of Otago,  wanted to see how much alcohol sponsorship of sport occurred using an example from the summer period over 2014 and 2015 by recording and analysing just how much advertising there was for alcohol during those games.

"We found that for both tennis, that's the Australian Open and football that nearly half the time alcohol adds were visible during the game, so that would either be on the hoardings, on the goal posts, on the field itself or on the player's uniforms," says Signal.

The researchers also suggest the amount of binge drinking in New Zealand is very high and is a particular issue for young Māori.

"Young Māori are unfortunately binge drinking more than young Pākehā, and we think we really need to close this problem off so that young Māori can grow up in a society that promotes healthy living."

Spirits NZ CEO Robert Brewer says official Ministry of Health research continues to confirm that harmful drinking among younger drinkers in New Zealand is coming down and has been for some time.

"What I do disagree with is the leap they (the researchers) made it out to say that as a result of young people seeing alcohol branding that somehow they will end up drinking hazardously now that simply is not supported by the facts."

He says the facts is in New Zealand the amount of harmful consumption by younger drinkers is going down and has been for a number of years.

Brewer says much of the focus is on the high profile sports like Rugby and Rugby League.

"My members also support of smaller cultural community events which would be very negatively impacted of course if alcohol sponsorship was banned."

In 2014 the Ministerial Forum on Alcohol Advertising presented the Government with a report looking at sport as being one particular avenue of society that youth and minors have a lot of exposure to, and they wanted to disassociate sport from alcohol.

Forum member Farah Palmer says "It was about the advertisements that go on in the ad breaks, we also looked at branding and how closely that was aligned with sports teams and athletes."

The Forum's recommendations included that the Government ban all alcohol sponsorship at venues, banning alcohol and sponsorship from all cultural and music events and particularly those where 10 percent or more of participants were under 18 years of age, and introducing some kind of sponsorship funding program. 

The Forum have had no response from the Government to date. Te Kāea requested a comment from the office of the Minister of Health today but to no avail.

But in a response to Spirits NZ, Palmer says "There's no strong link between being exposed to alcohol and becoming a binge drinker, that's not what the research was suggesting. There was some evidence to suggest that being exposed to alcohol advertising does in some cases create an earlier onset of drinking."

She says it's about how we approach drinking and alcohol consumption in New Zealand, and what are the things that we really care about, we care about sports so let's try and break that link. Palmer reiterated not all alcohol advertisers are irresponsible and try and target minors and should be congratulated for not doing that and finding other ways to show responsible use and consumption of alcohol.