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alcohol health alliance uk

Campaigners highlight ethics of alcohol product placement during Euros

A football

A football

Posted 17/06/21

Health campaigners are highlighting the inappropriateness of big alcohol brands sponsoring high profile sports events, such as the ongoing European Football Championships and exposing millions of under-18s to alcohol brands, at a time when alcohol-specific deaths have hit record levels, with rates particularly high in the North East.

Balance has questioned the ethics of deliberate product placement of Heineken beer branding in front of football stars and managers, like Paul Pogba, Joachim Low and Kalvin Phillips, during recent press conferences for the Euros.

It comes as research shows that exposure to alcohol sponsorship is associated with increased levels of alcohol consumption and risky drinking amongst schoolchildren, as well as sportspeople.[1] Sports sponsorship also exposes children to significant amounts of alcohol advertisement: almost a third of 11-19-year-olds in the UK recall seeing alcohol sponsorship for sports or events at least weekly, while one in twenty recall seeing alcohol sponsorship daily or almost daily.[2] Exposure is especially high during big sporting events broadcast on TV, such as the current European Football Championships.

The World Health Organization recommends restricting alcohol marketing as one of the most effective ways to reduce alcohol harm.[3] The majority of the public supports a ban on alcohol companies sponsoring sporting events.[4]

Sue Taylor Acting Head of Alcohol Policy for Fresh Balance said: “It is appalling that millions of children are seeing alcohol brands in front of their favourite football players and managers. It is designed to give the impression that they endorse these products, and that they’re having a pre or post-match beer which is totally misleading and inappropriate.

“The fact this is 0% beer is neither here nor there - all anyone can see is the alcohol brand. This is nothing short of beer-branding some of the top football players and coaches in the world by stealth.

"We urge people to consider the fact that exposure to alcohol brands encourages young people to drink at earlier ages and to drink more. Big alcohol companies invest billions of pounds in advertising strategies and events like the Euros, which are aimed at increasing their market share and making people associate sport, success and fitness with alcohol. However, we know that alcohol is a harmful substance, and we need to do more to protect our children from alcohol advertising, particularly in a sporting context, where millions of under-18s are watching the Euros.”

Alice Wiseman, Director of Public Health for Gateshead and alcohol lead for the Association of Directors of Public Health said: “It is hugely worrying to see young people across our region being exposed to alcohol advertising in this way as we know that brand recognition can lead to consumption. In the North East, we suffer from some of the greatest alcohol-related harms in the country and alcohol specific deaths recently hit record highs. Heineken’s sponsorship of the European Football Championships sends out the message that alcohol products are a normal and desirable part of sport and everyday life. We must do more to challenge this and make sure that our children are better protected from alcohol advertising and the harms that alcohol can cause.”

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, which has more than 50 members, added: “I applaud Paul Pogba’s decision to remove the bottle of alcohol that was placed in front of him at last night’s press conference. Whether the beer was non-alcoholic or not, the branding unmistakably belongs to a beer company.”