The adaptation of alcohol advertising

Alcohol advertising ingenuity
The failing of a single strand prohibition
A better way towards longer term change
Courage required by political leadership

Blatz Beer Ad 1913Once more weekend media was dominated by the continued debate over whether or not the Government is likely to impose a ban on alcohol sponsorship of sport in isolation.

The drinks industry has always been a major advertiser, switching media and message in tune with public opinion and the reaction of its own audience to what is seen as acceptable. There is no question that if a ban were imposed, the marketing departments of Diageo, Heineken, Pernod Ricard, Coors and all the rest would be able to find other ways, probably very quickly to maintain their visibility.

The picture above, dating from an advertisement published in 1913 shows how tastes and understanding change over time. Anyone who believes that a single strand prohibition of marketing alcohol through sport will have a game changing impact on the social and health problems caused by abuse of alcohol need to be questioned seriously about the basis for their belief.

Once again we must state that Sport for Business steers a neutral path. Our suggestion that the Government replace overt alcohol promotion with public health programmes on how to act sensibly and responsibly with alcohol will lead to a much greater understanding among young people.

This would ideally be backed up by heroes and role models bring forward messages about how they control alcohol as one part of their lives but not in a binge way that many young people do.

In order to replace the spending by alcohol companies a budget of €35 million a year would be required, a tiny percentage of the cost in terms of health, productivity, reputation and society that alcohol abuse costs us.

It would be roughly the same as the budget for the Road Safety Authority which has delivered real lives saved.

The difficulty is that the benefits in terms of alcohol awareness would be realised over 25 years rather than one and as such require a greater faith and greater courage on behalf of politicians who realise that the wins will take place beyond the lifetime of their contribution to the debate.  But then again, it is in the public service so maybe, just maybe.

Sport for Business has covered the debate on Alcohol Sponsorship and Sport since it’s inception 15 months ago. We brought together a round table of ten thinkers in the field from Peter McKenna of the GAA to Peter O’Brien of Diageo looking for a way through what is a very emotive and very important subject.

There are restrictions in place on how alcohol is promoted. They do need strengthening and placing on a statutory rather than a voluntary footing.

The alcohol companies will without doubt work alongside sport and government to make a new regime work.  That assistance may be shunned by those opposed to alcohol but it would provide the backing to make it work and alcohol problems are a problem for the industry as well as all of us.

If a ban is imposed without consideration and compensation for the downstream impact, we will without doubt be in a worse place as a sporting society, with fewer youths engaged in sport and looking elsewhere for kicks.  Where will they look?

No Alcoholheader-1Paul O'Driscoll 2013 Rugby

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