A study in Wales has concluded that banning alcohol sponsorship would have little effect on youth drinking patterns.
The study led by Cardiff Business School’s Dr Fiona Davies, published in the International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship, found there was no significant statistical correlation between sports sponsorship awareness and attitudes to alcohol use.
The research found that although boys with greater awareness of sports sponsorship were slightly more likely to drink alcohol, the extent of their involvement in sport was a much stronger factor in their intention to drink than sponsorship.
Dr Davies said: “Boys with sporting interests appear to be influenced towards drinking and drunkenness by the traditional macho sporting culture rather than the presence of alcohol sponsorship.
“Alcohol sponsorship does play a part in perpetuating and normalising this culture, and so has some additional influence.
“But the findings indicate that banning it would have little effect on the traditional male practices of drinking after playing sport, watching televised matches with a beer in hand.”
Involvement in sport had no impact on girls’ attitudes to drinking, the survey found.
“This may be because the sports which interest them are less associated with alcohol, or that they do not wish to subscribe to the traditional male sporting culture.”
The results of the study are based on questionnaires and focus groups conducted with 294 14 to 15-year-olds from five schools.
They suggest that banning alcohol sponsorship of sport would need to be part of a much wider campaign to break the long-standing links between sport and alcohol in British male culture.
Dr Davies said: “For example, most of the youngsters correctly picked Brains as the sponsor of the Welsh rugby and football teams. But that connection was not rela- ted to whether they drank or not.
“We found that seeing sports people drinking and participating in and spectating on sport influenced them to drink.”
“The lives of several sports people, including the late George Best and Tony Adams, have been affected by drink problems.
“But we don’t seem to see any positive role models in sport speaking out about the benefits of not drinking, which is a shame.”
Richard Davies, sales and marketing director at Cardiff brewer SA Brain, said the firm takes its responsibility as a retailer very seriously and adopts a socially-responsible approach to marketing.
“For example, we worked with the WRU to phase out branding on children’s replica kit ahead of a voluntary ban. In no way do we believe that alcohol sponsorship can be held accountable for underage drinking.
“We believe that the pub remains an important hub of our social fabric and a pint in the local is a great Welsh tradition.
“Brains pubs provide a regulated environment for people to enjoy alcohol socially and responsibly and we actively discourage reckless or excessive consumption of alcohol and adopt a strong stance on the issue of underage drinking.”
But Welsh Secretary of the British Medical Association, Dr Richard Lewis, said alcohol consumption in Wales and the UK has increased rapidly, with marketing and sponsorship a key factor behind consumers drinking more.
“The market for alcohol has grown substantially, driven by vast promotional and marketing campaigns, with the UK alcohol industry spending approximately £800m annually,” he said.
“Alcohol marketing communications have a powerful effect on young people.
“The fact that promotion is allowed communicates a legitimacy and status to alcohol that belies the harms associated with its use. It also severely limits the effectiveness of public health messages.
“The more common and acceptable young people think drinking is, both in society as a whole and among their peers, the more likely they are to be a drinker.”