Minister has scored an ‘own goal’ on alcohol sponsorship of sport – AAI letter published in Irish Medical Times

From Irish Medical Times

March 14, 2013

Dear Editor,

The argument that we need the alcohol industry to sponsor sports so that young people will participate and reduce their drinking is a policy ’own goal’.

The alcohol industry sponsors sport to sell more alcohol. The aim of alcohol marketing is to increase sales of alcohol, whether by encouraging current drinkers to buy more or by recruiting new customers ”” and ’new’ means ’young’.

Sponsorship is an effective means of promotion, a key part of the marketing mix to sell more alcohol ”” it is not an exercise in corporate philanthropy, no matter how slick the packaging or what label you put on it.

Minister Leo Varadkar, in his recent response to parliamentary questions on sports sponsorship, referred to the French experience of the Loi Evin, which significantly limits the promotion of alcohol, and deemed it a failure because French school children are now binge drinking as much as their Irish counterparts (44 per cent versus 40 per cent).

In an era when social networking giant Facebook has signed multi-million euro deals with global alcohol brand Diageo in order to facilitate the alcohol producer to sell more alcohol (and apparently it’s working, if comments by senior executives are anything to go by) and Google with Heineken, to say that a national law isn’t working because young people are increasing their binge drinking is reductionist.

Minister Varadkar also referred to cost-benefit analysis and evidence-based policies. If evidence was needed of the link between alcohol marketing and young people drinking, then mention could have been made of the findings of the European Commission’s Science Group of the Alcohol and Health Forum, which found that alcohol marketing did impact on young people’s behaviour ”” increasing the likelihood of those not drinking starting and of those already drinking, drinking even more. Alcohol-related harm costs this country an estimated ?3 billion a year.

As the President of Ireland recently reminded us ”” ironically in France ”” we are citizens, not just consumers. We, including policy-makers, have a choice to make: do we want alcohol associated with sporting success in a country where so many young people, including young men who are the predominant target of sports sponsorship, experience significant harms from alcohol?

It would seem we are selling ourselves short in this particular financial transaction.

Fiona Ryan,


Alcohol Action Ireland.