As the time draws closer for Leo Varadkar to step up to his new role as Taoiseach, one of the sports related stories with which he was closely associated in his time as Minister of Sport and then Health is back in the spotlight.
The NFL has confirmed that it is lifting a ban on the promotion of spirits such as whiskey, vodka, gin and rum as part of advertising that is permitted during the broadcast of games for the new season starting in September.
There will be restrictions with no more than four ads in any one game, no use of a football theme in the creative and one in five ads having to be given over exclusively towards messages of responsible drinking.
Beer brands are less restricted but still carry social responsibility messaging as standard and are not permitted to use active NFL players in their promotions.
The NFL has a relationship with Mothers Against Drunk Driving which delivers player and fan education at the majority of teams across the league.
Bud Light is one of the NFL’s main partners as its official beer sponsor, paying an estimated $1.4 Billion over six years. That deal is currently half way through and it remains to be seen whether opening up the advertising and promotion landscape to a new rival for the drinks market will impact on the value of that deal.
Read Sport for Business’ detailed analysis of the most recent Oireachtas Committee Findings on the Relationship Between Alcohol and Sport here.
Beer’s share of the US alcohol market dropped to 50 per cent in 2016, down from 58 per cent in 2003 while spirits rose from 28 per cent to 32 per cent in the same period.
Ireland’s relationship to alcohol advertising and to sport in particular went through a period of close inspection in preparation for the Alcohol Control Bill though that has yet to make it onto the statute books.
It may be revived once more under Varadkar though whether it would include any blanket restriction on sports sponsorship remains unlikely at this stage.
Self regulation through a voluntary code is strictly adhered to by all the major players and there would as yet be little appetite from major rights holders to have to replace the more than 30 per cent of the total sponsorship market which is provided by alcohol companies.
Global markets are showing a trend towards relaxation rather than prohibition. Ireland’s bid to host the Rugby World Cup is at a crucial stage and while the very active health lobby pressing for more restriction will continue to plead a strong and vocal case, the political mood is not likely to be right yet for any further push toward their aims.
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