User:UC3025323/The Evolution of Alcohol and Tobacco Sport Sponsorship Agreements Essay

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The Evolution of Alcohol and Tobacco Sport Sponsorship Agreements

This article aims to provide a history of the evolution of alcohol and tobacco sponsorship agreements within Australian sport, including a comparison to other nations dating back to the 1960’s. It will begin with an outline of the commodification of sport, both at a national and international level, followed by a discussion on how Australian sport, as a product, differs from that of other countries.

There is a vast difference in the advertising legislation that governs alcohol and tobacco, whilst tobacco advertising at Australian sporting events has been banned for nearly two decades under the Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Act 1992, alcohol sponsorship is only monitored under the Alcoholic Beverages Advertising Code (ABAC). This raises some interesting issues in that the ABAC is a voluntary code with limited government representation and has no means of enforcing penalties for non-compliance. This has allowed advertising by alcohol companies at sporting events to continue.

Consumer attitudes towards alcohol advertising and sponsorship are, however, changing with many surveys being undertaken to establish whether or not tougher legislative laws should be introduced to bring it more in line with tobacco legislative laws. Issues that had been identified concerning alcohol advertising are closely related to those of tobacco advertising with the two most common being the connection between the product and disease (physical and mental) and the penetration of the youth market.


Guinness Premiership match between Bath and Leicester Tigers - Mark Geater

Sport Sponsorship agreements with alcohol and tobacco companies involve the advertising of these products at sporting events. Sport Sponsorship is an alternative advertising method whereby brands can cement their message in a subtly, long-lasting manner (Media Know All, 2011). Sport sponsorship can occur in a wide range of situations, from multi-million dollar deals with high name companies to small shop owners at a local level.

Advertising can be defined as the promotion of products through a variety of media. Alcohol and tobacco advertising are two of the most highly regulated forms of marketing. This claim can be attributed to research that has been conducted which has identified relationships between the advertising of these products and consumption. With this in mind, it is important for alcohol and tobacco companies to demonstrate that effective alcohol campaigns only lead to an increase in market share and brand loyalty not consumption (Federal Trade Commission, 2003).

Commodification of Sport[edit]

Today, more so than ever, sport and sporting events are being shaped by the commercial needs of businesses and government. This trend, whereby sport has been turned into a commodity, is reflected in the practice of naming rights for stadiums and arenas, logos on athletes’ clothing, equipment, facility billboards and in the titles given to sporting events. The infinite amount of money that media companies are willing to pay to secure broadcasting rights contributes to the increase in the commercial value of such events. Often broadcasting of large events is considered prime time and advertisers will pay large amounts of money to secure these spots. Thirty seconds of prime time during the American Superbowl can cost upwards of $3 million. The commodification of sport affects all aspects of the industry, from amateur sports to professional sports, and has had a major impact on sport sponsorship agreements.

Tobacco Sponsorship Agreements[edit]

A Team Penske Marlboro-sponsored car in 1994 - Rick Dikeman
A Team Penske Verizon-sponsored car in 2009, with an unbranded Marlboro scheme - Ty Hill

During a court case in 2004, US Government –vs- the tobacco industry, the judge indicated that the marketing of tobacco was conducted with one thing in mind; their own financial success, showing no regard for human tragedy or the social costs that are associated with tobacco usage (, 2011).

Tobacco sponsorship agreements and associated advertising aims at linking the tobacco brand with exciting, popular and skilled sporting events; improving the image and appeal of the brand. This advertising clearly undermines the health warnings on tobacco by linking the product with physical fitness and exercise (, 2011). On the 27th of February 2005, the World Health Organisation Convention on Tobacco Control required that 168 countries ban tobacco advertising unless their constitution forbade it. Currently there are 174 parties who adhere to the framework (World Health Organisation, 2011).


Introduced in 1992, the Tobacco Advertising Promotion Act states that tobacco advertising at sporting and cultural events in Australia is prohibited. At this time, current sponsorship agreements were allowed to run their course and by 1998, all sponsorship agreements had ended. There were, however, some exceptions to the Act. Events “of international significance” that “would be likely to result in the event not being held in Australia” should tobacco advertising be forbidden were allowed to continue if granted an exemption. By 2006, only two events were exempt under this clause; The Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix and The Australian Formula One Grand Prix which, from 2007, no longer featured tobacco sponsorship Government ComLaw, 1992).


  • South Africa: Originally passed in 1999, the Tobacco Products Control Amendment Act 2008 bans all advertising and promotion of tobacco products including, but not limited to, sponsorship and free distribution Gazette: Republic of South Africa, 2008).
  • Europe: All tobacco sponsorship and advertising has been banned since 1991 under the Television without Frontiers (TVWF) Directive (1989). Some nations, however, still allow advertising and promotion at sporting and cultural events such as Russia and Greece (Europa, 2008).
  • North America: In the 1970’s, the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act limited advertising of tobacco products and in 2010 the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act prohibited sponsorship agreements with sporting events Library, 2011).
  • Canada: Sport adverting was allowed in Canada up until 2003 under the Tobacco Products Control Act 1988 of Justice, 2011).

Alcohol Sponsorship Agreements[edit]

Alcohol consumption has long been a part of Australian culture and goes hand in hand with sporting events. Unlike the advertising of tobacco, alcohol has seen limited legislation regulate the industry both in Australia and around the world. Sport is seen as the primary, if not dominant medium for the promotion of alcohol and drinking with most of businesses marketing budgets being spent on sporting events (Centre on Marketing and Youth, 2004). Although alcohol advertising is banned in some countries, there are still many sporting codes that allow alcohol sponsorship agreements including:

  • NASCAR Racing – Jim Bean, Jack Daniels, Diageo/Crown Royal.
  • Formula One Racing – Foster’s Group, Becks, Budweiser, Diageo.
  • Golf – Diageo, Johnnie Walker.
  • Cricket – Red Stripe, Thwaites Lancaster Bomber, Wolf Blass Wines, VB.
  • Rugby Union – Steinlager, Guinness, Tooheys New, Bundaberg Rum.
  • Rugby League – Foster’s Lager, Bundaberg Rum, VB.
NASCAR Advertising - Larry McTighe
Foster's For Sale at the 2005 United States Grand Prix - Chris J. Moffett
Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles
Victoria Bitter and Wolf Blass Wine Advertising at Cricket Match
Steinlager are a major sponsor for the New Zealand All Blacks
VB Sponsorship of Australian Kangaroo's


Although alcohol advertising is still allowed in Australia, there are a number of laws and codes of conduct which place limits on this advertising; The Advertisers Code of Ethics and the Alcoholic Beverages Advertising Code (ABAC). The difference between the two codes is that the Code of Ethics covers all forms of advertising and the ABAC is a set of guidelines under a voluntary system of self-regulation. Although undergoing regular changes, problems in Australian keep on arising concerning alcohol advertising (Jones, Hall & Munro, 2008).

The ABAC acknowledges that Alcohol companies play a major role in supporting community events and activities i.e. sporting events. The ABAC understands that alcohol companies have the right to advertise at sporting events but hope that they will endeavour under the ABAC to ensure that:

  • All promotional advertising in support of events does not clearly target underage persons and as such is consistent with the ABAC standard.
  • Alcohol beverages served at such events are served in keeping with guidelines, and where applicable legal requirements, for responsible serving of alcohol.
  • Promotional staff and promotion materials at events do not promote consumption patterns that are inconsistent with responsible consumption as defined in the NHMRC guidelines.
  • Promotional staff don’t misstate the nature or alcohol content of a product.
  • Promotional staff at events are of legal drinking age.
  • Promotional materials distributed at events do not clearly target underage persons.
  • Promotional materials given away at or in association with events do not connect the consumption of alcohol with the achievement of sexual success.
  • Promotional materials given away at or in association with events do not link the consumption of alcohol with sporting, financial, professional or personal success.
  • Any prizes or giveaways in relation to alcohol consumption are only awarded to winners who are over the legal drinking age (ABAC).


The European Union and World Health Organisations (WHO) have both indicated that the advertising and promotion of alcohol needs to be more stringently controlled, especially at sporting events. In 2005, ethical principals were adopted under the WHO Framework for Alcohol Policy for the Region, including:

  • All people have the right to a family, community and working life protected from accidents, violence and other negative consequences of alcohol consumption.
  • All people have the right to valid impartial information and education, starting early in life, on the consequences of alcohol consumption on health, the family and society.
  • All children and adolescents have the right to grow up in an environment protected from the negative consequences of alcohol consumption and, to the extent possible, from the promotion of alcoholic beverages
  • All people who do not wish to consume alcohol, or who cannot do so for health or other reasons, have the right to be safeguarded from the pressures to drink and be supported in their non-drinking behaviour.
Heineken Cup Football - Zegreg63

These ethical principals clearly relate to alcohol advertising at sporting events through sponsorship agreements as they outline the negative effects this advertising can have on individuals.

Some countries, such as Ukraine, Kenya, France, India and Norway have already taken steps in reducing alcohol consumption and have banned all advertising of alcohol on television and billboards. Due to the banning of alcohol advertising in some countries, names of sporting events may vary. In Europe, the Rugby Union Club Competition is known as the Heineken Cup. However, in France, because alcohol advertising is banned, it is known as the H Cup. The United States currently has a high reliance on alcohol sponsorship at major sporting events. Some of these events include NASCAR and the American Superbowl. In the United States there are self-regulating bodies that create standards for the ethical advertising of alcohol, some of which include:

  • Alcohol advertising can only be placed in the media where 70% of the audience is of a legal drinking age.
  • Alcohol advertising messages should not be designed to appeal to those under the age of 21.
  • Advertising must not promote irresponsible drinking.

Issues with Alcohol Sponsorship and Advertising at Sporting Events[edit]

Alcohol refers to drinks such as beer, wine or spirits, all of which contain ethyl alcohol, a substance that causes drunkenness, changes in consciousness, mood and emotions. It is these psychoactive effects that lead to accidents, injuries, disease and disruptions in family and everyday life. Alcohol affects people differently and there is no amount of alcohol that can be said to be safe for everyone. (Department of Health and Ageing, 2011)

Within Australia, there is a strong link between alcohol and sport; this can be attributed to the fact that sport and drinking are considered proud Australian traditions. With limited restrictions on alcohol sponsorship and advertising in Australia, the Australian public is beginning to recognise the relationship sport and alcohol has and conclusions are being made that sport fans are getting the bad end of the deal from this arrangement. Studies have been conducted to identify perceived issues with alcohol advertising these include:

  • The promotion of alcohol and alcohol products to minors – this occurs when they come in contact with alcohol related images and messages. Fielder, Donovan & Ouschan’s research indicates that young people are regularly exposed to alcohol advertising through sponsorship agreements and this influence results in pro-drinking attitudes and plays a significant role in their decision on whether or not to drink and how much they consume (Babor et al, 2003; Jernigan & Mosher, 2005; Anderson, 2009; Hurtz et al, 2007).
  • Excessive alcohol consumption – has been identified as an issue from acknowledged public concern. The National Preventative Health Taskforce identified that there is currently an opportunity to expand efforts related to the prevention of alcohol related harm which can be attributed to limited regulations on alcohol advertising. A research paper published in 1991 identified that during the 1970’s and early 1980’s countries that had bans on spirits advertising have about 16% lower alcohol consumption than those that allowed the advertising. Countries with bans on beer and wine advertising experienced approximately 11% lower alcohol consumption (Saffer, 1991).


Notwithstanding that consumer attitudes towards alcohol advertising and sponsorship are changing, this issue still requires more stringent regulations to better align it with public health interests and tobacco laws (Munro & De Wever, 2009).


User:UC3025323/The Evolution of Alcohol and Tobacco Sport Sponsorship Agreements Summary Presentation


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