A tale of two Carltons – the myth of ‘responsible drinking’

Another day, another alcohol-deal in Aussie sport.

At first glance, sure, it seems like a natural fit – a no-brainer, Carlton Football Club’s seven-year partnership with Carlton & United Breweries (CUB). After all, the two brands share a name, and, as Carlton FC CEO Steven Trigg said, “Naturally, there is a terrific alignment with Carlton Football Club partnering with Carlton & United Breweries. Both Carlton and CUB are iconic brands in Melbourne with a rich history.”

Then follows the stale, throwaway line, “…we look forward to working closely with CUB to educate our members and supporters on the important message of responsible consumption of alcohol.”

‘Responsible consumption of alcohol’ – a phrase that promises so much and delivers so little.

Alcohol causes 5,500 deaths and 157,000 hospitalisations in Australia each year. Not to mention the thousands affected by the consequences of others’ alcohol harm, and the kids who are now more likely to drink more, and from an earlier age, after seeing CUB plastered over their favourite Blues.

The alcohol and sporting industries’ approach to this catastrophe is DrinkWise, a PR stunt funded by the alcohol industry to promote ‘responsible drinking’, with a heavy and intentional emphasis on the drinking. And therein lies the brilliance of DrinkWise and the alcohol industry.

You see the term responsible consumption of alcohol is an altogether unhelpful term. As is ‘to drink responsibly’. It is entirely open to interpretation.

Polling in recent years on Australians’ drinking attitudes and behaviours found that around 92 per cent of us consider ourselves responsible drinkers.[1] Yet this year’s poll found 44 per cent – or around five million Aussies – report they drink to get drunk. And that stat is on the rise.

We can take no comfort in the knowledge that CUB will be promoting more ‘responsible drinking’ at Carlton.

In fact, if the Carlton/Blues deal is a ‘natural’ fit, we should all be feeling pretty blue.


[1] Annual Alcohol Poll 2015 – Attitudes and behaviors. Canberra: Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education, 2015.

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