Alcohol advertising fueling football budgets

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Some of the largest sponsors of the top football leagues in the world are alcohol vendors, prompting a debate about the ethical acceptability of alcohol advertising in the sport.

Alcohol producers are heavy spenders on advertising

Ticket sales are representing only a small portion of total earnings in the world of football and top stars could never be paid their staggering salaries without generous contributions from sponsors. That puts popular athletes in salesmen roles and turns teams into highly visible endorsements for large corporations. However the question of sponsorship is especially delicate in case of alcohol producers that support football teams and leagues through large sums of advertising spending.

The cases of Heineken, Carlsberg and Red Stripe

There is a growing trend for major alcohol brands to invest large sums into sponsorship deals. Carlsberg is currently one of the most prominent partners of the Barclays Premier League, while seventeen of its twenty teams had individual agreements with alcohol manufacturers during the 2013/14 season. Another major beer producer, Heineken, decided after sponsoring the UEFA Champions League for a long time to expand its influence overseas and signed a partnership deal with Major League Soccer in anticipation of the game’s growth in the USA. Even smaller leagues are targeted by alcohol brands, with the Jamaican Premier League recent signing of a five-year deal with the local beer brand Red Stripe serving as a perfect example. Since big money is involved, it doesn’t appear likely that the partnership between alcohol and football will end in the near future.

The controversial relationship of football and alcohol advertising

“Alcoholic drinks are part of the FIFA World Cup, so we’re going to have them. Excuse me if I sound a bit arrogant but that’s something we won’t negotiate. The fact that we have the right to sell beer has to be a part of the law.” said Jerome Valcke, General Secretary of FIFA in clear indication where football’s top regulating body stands in regards to this issue.

Let’s face it: the main reason why alcohol vendors are interested in football sponsorships is that a big majority of football fans belongs to their primary target group, with beer and spirits often consumed in the stadiums or in front of the TVs. This seems to be at odds with the supposed role of football in promoting a healthy lifestyle and sportsmanship values.

It is especially of concern when it comes to the messages sent to underage fans. The progressive impact of alcohol vendors on the football industry is considered a red flag by some observers, with calls for better regulations in this area or an outright ban on alcohol advertising in football. There are even claims that football sponsorships by alcohol producers represent a breach of the rules for advertising of alcoholic beverages, as football fans are seen to associate drinking with the glamour and the success of the stars carrying the logos on their chests.

Did you know? The average viewer of top level football in England is exposed to around 2 images of alcohol advertising every minute.

Picture: Ytimg

References: Biomed Central, F&B News, IAS, Jamaica Observer, MLS Soccer

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