Alcohol companies engage in an enormous range of sponsorship activities in Australian sport – from local teams through to major national codes.
The relationship between alcohol and sport is now so strong that many sporting teams and events have ‘Official’ alcohol sponsors.
These are presumably intended to denote a formal relationship between the alcohol brand and sport. They also give consumers the impression that sports stars support, use and recommend these products.
The McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth at Curtin University has compiled a list of all these associations, designating it The Official Drinks Cabinet of Australian Sport (as reported in Fairfax media).
This list includes brands which are designated as the ‘Official’ alcohol products for a sport, sporting team or event. It includes only those beer, wine, spirits or cider sponsors which specifically have an ‘Official’ role, and does not include sponsors with other labels such as ‘gold’, ‘silver’ or ‘major’ partner, ‘official supplier’ or ‘official sponsor’.
Wild Turkey is the “Official Spirit of the NRL”. Victoria Bitter (VB) is the “Official Beer of the NRL and the NSW VB Blues” and the “Official Beer of Cricket Australia and the Australian test team”. Glenn McGrath is the “Official Hardys Cricket Ambassador”, and Budweiser is the “Official Beer at the 2014 FIFA World Cup”. View the full list.
Many children will be watching sport, so it’s baffling that sports not only endorse alcohol products, they also promote them as the ‘Official’ drinks of a team, sport or an event.
And, given alcohol’s contribution to road accidents and fatalities, it is almost beyond belief that alcohol brands seek ‘Official’ associations with motorsports, or that the event promoters think it’s appropriate to have an ‘Official Spirit of V8 Supercars’ or an ‘Official Wine Partner’ of the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix.
Sadly Australia is not alone. There are many high-profile international ‘Official’ alcohol sponsors of major sporting events.
Elite athletes should be champions for health but their sports seem more interested in championing alcohol interests.
Given the risks associated with alcohol use among young people and the appeal of sport to children, I recommend that sporting organisations remove alcohol from their Official Drinks Cabinet.
I also urge the government and all regulatory authorities to ensure that impressionable young people are not constantly exposed to irresponsible alcohol promotion – and that the rules protect children, not alcohol companies.
This is an edited extract of a post which originally appeared on Croakey on 23 March 2015.