Examining the nature of sponsorship relations for professional football teams across countries with varied restrictions on alcohol marketing

Dr. Richard I. Purves, Amber Morgan, Dr. Nathan Critchlow; A report prepared for Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems by the Institute for Social Marketing and Health, Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport, University of Stirling. Published November 2022

Background and aims: Alcohol sports sponsorship provides a highly effective, high-profile, and high-reach
platform for alcohol companies to promote their products and allows brands to capitalise on existing emotional connections that consumers have with their favourite teams, players, or events. Controls on alcohol marketing, including alcohol sponsorship, are recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of their three ‘best buy’ policies to reduce harmful use of alcohol. Most countries in the WHO European region have some form of controls in place for alcohol marketing, ranging
from self-regulation to statutory restrictions. However, there is limited evidence on the extent of alcohol sports sponsorship in various European countries and whether this is impacted by different approaches towards regulating alcohol sports sponsorship. This report therefore examines the extent of alcohol sport sponsorship in the top tier of professional football across various European nations.

Methods: An open-source audit of the main sponsors (and/or partners) of ‘top flight’ male professional football teams (n=178) and leagues in 10 European countries. The main sponsors/partners for each team and league were captured from official websites. Findings: Across the 178 teams audited, 7,807 main
sponsors / partners were identified. Of these main sponsors / partners, 2.6% (n=200) were judged to be
alcohol related (range: 0.6% in Sweden to 7.4% in Belgium). Most were for producers/distributors/brands of  alcoholic drinks (93.5%). A smaller proportion were for brand variants with no (zero) or low alcohol content (4.0%) or licensed premises that primarily sold alcohol (2.5%). Of the 178 teams audited, 72.5% (n=129) were judged to have at least one alcohol related sponsor/partner. Across the 10 leagues, 110 main sponsors / partners were identified. Of these, four were judged to be alcohol related (3.6%, all individual leagues), all of which were for producers/distributors/brands of alcoholic drinks.

Conclusion: The extent of alcohol sponsorship across European countries with varying approaches to alcohol marketing is complex. Although alcohol sponsors made up a small percentage of all main sponsors / partners identified, three quarters of teams were judged to have at least one alcohol related sponsor/partner. While the data supports that countries with statutory controls do appear to have comparatively less alcohol sponsorship, the differences observed between other countries – particularly
where no statutory controls exist – suggests that wider cultural and commercial factors are also important





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