Restricting alcohol advertising and promotion: consultation

This consultation seeks views on potential restrictions to alcohol advertising and promotion in Scotland.

6. Sport and events sponsorship

“I remember at my brother’s football match, there were alcohol advertisements all around the pitch.” (9-11 year old, Children’s Parliament)

6.1 There is a long-standing relationship between alcohol brands and sport in Scotland, particularly in football and rugby union. This normally consists of club or competition sponsorship as well as high profile sponsorship of major international sporting competitions such as the Six Nations and the UEFA European Championships. When hosted in Scotland these events reach larger and more captive audiences than other marketing channels can. Television audiences for international rugby union and football matches involving Scotland number in the millions, in addition to the thousands in the crowd watching in person.

6.2 Research considering 34 rugby and football teams/organisations in Scotland found that nearly four in ten of the teams audited (39%) had a sponsorship relationship with an alcohol producer or distributor. This included half of the football teams in the Scottish Premier League, nearly a third of the teams in the Scottish Championship and the three rugby organisations audited.

6.3 Sponsorship is a contractual arrangement between an alcohol company and a sports team, venue or competition. This arrangement often includes a wide range of marketing activities which are used to explicitly promote products. Specific activities in the sporting context including featuring alcohol brands on players clothing or displaying advertising on pitch borders. Sponsorship has also evolved to include social media and digital content. Examples include videos featuring players visiting distilleries and creating alcoholic products.

6.4 Cumulatively this marketing activity means that alcohol brands are highly visible to crowds attending as well as to anyone watching the broadcasts. Researchers coded televised broadcasts of sport in Scotland and found one alcohol marketing reference every 98 seconds in a live Scottish Premier League match, every 71 seconds in a live Scottish Cup Final and every 15 seconds in a live Six Nations match.

6.5 A recent University of Stirling study analysed alcohol references within four broadcast matches, hosted in France, Ireland and Scotland, at the 2020 rugby Six Nations Championship. This found that alcohol marketing was most frequent in the match played in Scotland, with an average of approximately five references per broadcast minute, one every 12 seconds. This contrasted with an average of one reference per broadcast minute in France, a country with comprehensive restrictions on alcohol marketing. The most frequent location of references in the match played in Scotland was on the stadium structure (36.2%), particularly static and electronic advertising hoarding on the upper tiers that was visible during large parts of the broadcast.

What impact does this have?

6.6 Children and young people in Scotland form part of the in-person and televised

6.7 audience for sporting events, meaning that through attendance at these events they can be heavily exposed to alcohol sports sponsorship.

6.8 A 2019 survey found that 69% of young people surveyed in Scotland had seen alcohol sports or events sponsorship in the prior month. Research with ten and eleven year olds in the UK found that almost half of the Scottish children surveyed (47%) associated the Scottish national team with the beer brand sponsor at that time. Only 19% of the English children made the same association.

6.9 Sponsorship is a particularly potent form of alcohol marketing. People have particular connections with sports teams and players, as well as bands and celebrities. This allows alcohol brands to capitalise on and transfer these emotional connections to their brand, thereby increasing the alcohol brands visibility, appeal and influence. This may create an appearance that the players or team are endorsing the products, children and young people or adults may then want to purchase these products in order to emulate, or be similar to, their sporting heroes.

6.10 Project and focus group work with children and young people in Scotland and the UK further evidences how highly aware of alcohol sports sponsorship they are. One of the children involved in the Children’s Parliament investigation on an alcohol-free childhood said “the Champions League sponsor is (brand name deleted)… At the start of the match, they announce the sponsor and you can see the adverts all over the stadium.” Children and young people in Scotland have considered alcohol sports sponsorship and made the below recommendations.

Young Scot Health Panel


Prohibit alcohol-branded sports merchandise, including sponsorship on replica kits.

Offer accreditation to sports venues which are more family-friendly. This entails reducing the alcohol advertising on display, placing limits on the number of alcoholic drinks a person can buy, and hosting at least six alcohol-free sporting events per year.

During televised sporting events, footage of crowds should avoid close shots of people drinking alcohol.

Children’s Parliament

Stop alcohol sponsorship of events at which children may be present. Investigators call on organisers of sports games, festivals and other events to have separate spaces for children and families, or to stop using alcohol sponsorship if any children may be present.

6.11 Alcohol sports sponsorship may also exclude or discourage those on a recovery journey for problematic drinking, from attending sporting events. People in recovery in Scotland have highlighted places where alcohol is sold and promoted as being risky environments.

6.12 It is clear that alcohol sponsorship is contributing to the high volume of alcohol marketing in Scotland. We want children and young people, as well as those in recovery and the wider population, to be able to attend and enjoy sporting events without seeing alcohol adverts or promotion. Sport should inspire good health and active participation rather than promote a health-harming and age-restricted product.

6.13 Many professional sports clubs in Scotland do not currently have an alcohol sponsor. A recent study found that half the Scottish Premier League football teams do not have an alcohol sponsor. Overall 93% of all sponsors in Scottish football and rugby are not alcohol producers or distributors. We know from the restrictions on tobacco sponsorship within sports that alternative sponsors can be found given adequate transition periods.

6.14 Examples from other countries with restrictions on alcohol sponsorship also demonstrate that sporting competitions remain financially viable and that major international events can still be successfully hosted. Both the football European Championships and World Cup were successfully hosted in France after sponsorship restrictions were imposed. Similar concerns were raised during the passage of the Irish legislation, which noted that other forms of sponsorship had already been found in sports that had already moved to remove alcohol links.

Question 1

Do you think we should prohibit alcohol sports sponsorship in Scotland?

Please tick one



Don’t Know

Please provide your answer in the text box.

6.15 As set out above, alcohol sports sponsorship is not a marketing channel in itself but is the term used to cover a contractual arrangement covering a range of marketing activities, aimed to promote that alcoholic product. Specific activities in the sporting context including featuring alcohol brands on physical items (players/officials clothing, equipment or trophies) or displaying advertising at various locations inside (pitch borders, tunnel, dug-outs, interview boards) and outside of stadiums. Special limited edition alcoholic products are also released to commemorate tournament wins or famous anniversaries.

6.16 The sponsorship arrangement can also be linked to hospitality arrangements within the stadium such as branded bars, glassware, signage and free tastings, in addition to that particular alcoholic drink being available to buy (where allowed), sometimes exclusively due to ‘pourage rights’.

6.17 Sponsorship has also evolved to include social media and digital content. Examples include content around competitions, branding accompanying team line ups or match results/commentary as well as videos featuring players visiting distilleries and creating alcoholic products.

6.18 One option for Scotland might be a prohibition on sponsorship, defined by reference to a list of prohibited marketing activities (e.g. a prohibition of alcohol brand logos on sports clothing, on players or managers featuring in adverts). The intention would be that this would create a more family friendly environment at both sporting and cultural events and weaken the link between influential figures and teams with alcohol brands.

6.19 If a prohibition on sponsorship was taken forward, there would also be potential cross-over with proposals in other areas e.g. a potential prohibition on advertising outdoors overlaps with a prohibition on advertising being featured in or around stadiums.

Question 2

If sports alcohol sponsorship were to be prohibited, what types of marketing do you think should be covered by a prohibition?

Illustrative examples include:

prohibiting the use of alcohol brands on clothing worn by players or staff

prohibiting alcohol being advertised on pitch side hoarding, pitches, trophies, tunnels or interview boards

prohibiting players or staff from featuring in alcohol adverts in print or online

prohibiting online content from linking the sports team, players or competition to an alcohol brand or vice versa.

Please provide your answer in the text box.

Question 3

What, if any, sporting activities or events do you think should be excepted from a prohibition on alcohol sports sponsorship?

Please provide your answer in the text box.

Events Sponsorship

6.20 Non-sporting events are also sponsored by alcohol companies and draw in high audiences in person and when televised. Examples include the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo and music festivals for example TRSNMT and Glasgow Summer Sessions.

6.21 Although there is strong academic evidence looking at the nature and extent of sports sponsorship in Scotland, as well as the impact sports sponsorship has generally, the extent and impact of sponsorship of non-sporting events has not been researched.

6.22 Despite the lack of research, it seems likely that children and young people, as well as those in recovery, see examples of alcohol marketing at non-sporting events, as a result of sponsorship arrangements. Techniques are likely to mirror those used in sports sponsorship including alcohol branding being featured on stages at music festivals and shows, alcohol advertising being displayed on programmes and posters and online content featured by both parties.

6.23 In terms of impact, it could be that sponsorship of non-sporting events also allows alcohol brands to feature alongside fun and enjoyable activities. This could drive the visibility and appeal of alcohol and influence pro-alcohol attitudes in children and young people.

6.24 There is some academic evidence finding that those on a recovery journey for problematic drinking find places where alcohol is sold and promoted to be risky environments where they would rather avoid.

6.25 Due to the likely impact this has, it is therefore also worth considering alcohol sponsorship of non-sporting events and whether this should be an area of potential restriction.

6.26 Given the need for a comprehensive approach for restriction to be effective, not considering non-sporting events may also provide a loophole in any regulation and a potential lucrative channel for alcohol marketing, if others were prohibited.

Question 4

Do you think we should prohibit alcohol events sponsorship in Scotland?

Please tick one



Don’t Know

Please explain your answer in the text box.

Question 5

If alcohol events sponsorship were to be prohibited, what types of marketing do you think should be covered by a prohibition?

Please provide your answer in the text box.

Question 6

What, if any, events do you think should be excepted from a prohibition on alcohol events sponsorship, and why?

Please provide your answer in the text box.

6.27 The Scottish Government acknowledge it would be a significant undertaking if alcohol sponsorship was prohibited for all events, without an adequate lead-in time. This takes account of the commercial nature of sponsorship contracts whereby these are made for a number of years. We welcome views on whether a lead-in time would be appropriate as well as how, and for how long, this might operate.

Question 7

If alcohol sponsorship restrictions are introduced, do you think there should be a lead-in time for these? How long might this be and how would it work?

Please tick one



Don’t Know

If you have any comments on the overall approach please record those here.



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