Football and rugby supporters in Scotland are consistently exposed to high levels of alcohol sponsorship, according to new research from the University of Stirling.
Alcohol marketing references featured once every 15 seconds in a live Six Nation rugby match, and once every 98 seconds in a live Scottish Premier Football League match, the study found.
Exposure to such marketing activity is linked with drinking initiation and increased alcohol consumption, said the team from Stirling’s Institute for Social Marketing and Health (ISMH).
Alcohol Focus Scotland and Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP) funded the research – and both organisations are now calling on the Scottish Government to curb alcohol companies’ sponsorship of professional sport.
Dr Richard Purves, of the ISMH, said: “This new research provides, for the first time, insight into the extent, nature, and frequency of alcohol sponsorship within two of Scotland’s most popular spectator sports, football and rugby union.
“Alcohol sponsorship was particularly visible in rugby union, both in terms of the number of sponsorship relations with alcohol companies and how often alcohol marketing references appeared in the television broadcasts analysed.
“For football, alcohol sponsorship appeared to be more prevalent amongst larger or more successful teams, for example those playing at the top-level, compared to clubs which offered fewer opportunities for national and international exposure, such as those in the lower-leagues.”
Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: “Sponsorship by alcohol companies has been woven into the fabric of the sports we love capitalising on our emotional connections to our teams and players, so that we associate certain alcohol brands with healthy activity and high-performing athletes.
“Sport should be clean – it should inspire good health and active participation - and to use it as a promotional vehicle for an addictive and health-harming product is simply unacceptable. The current system of self-regulation is no regulation. It is failing to protect people – especially our children and other vulnerable people. The Scottish Government needs to act.”
Dr Eric Carlin, Director of SHAAP, said: “It’s easy to understand why many clubs are attracted to the income alcohol sponsorship can provide but we need to look to clubs and organisations who are managing well without this sponsorship and move away from products, like alcohol, which cause huge problems in Scotland.
“Scottish Women’s Football have shown leadership in rejecting alcohol and gambling sponsorship. It’s time for others to follow their lead and protect their fans and players. The Scottish Government needs to introduce comprehensive and robust restrictions on alcohol sport sponsorship.”