Review of the Alcohol Sponsorship Guidlines for Scotland

The review evaluated knowledge of, and compliance with, the Alcohol Sponsorhsip Guidelines for Scotland, with a focus on identifying best practice and examining whether there is a need to enhance and improve the Guidelines to ensure they remain fit for purpose.

1 Background and context

Policy background

1.1 The Scottish Government has sought to liaise closely with the alcohol industry, through the Scottish Government Alcohol Industry Partnership (SGAIP), putting in place a range of measures to tackle alcohol misuse and promote responsible drinking.

1.2 One such measure was the Alcohol Sponsorship Guidelines for Scotland, published in 2009. The Guidelines are intended to ensure that: sponsorship is carried out in a responsible way; that sponsorship opportunities are used to promote responsible drinking; and that alcohol sponsorship is not targeted at those under the legal purchase age. In the tradition of self-regulation in the alcohol industry, adherence to the Guidelines is voluntary.

1.3 Prior to the Guidelines being produced, no guidelines or legislation relating specifically to alcohol sponsorship agreements in Scotland existed. The Portman Code of Practice on the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks (hereafter referred to as the Portman Code) provides a procedural framework for influencing, regulating and controlling industry practice in relation to the naming, packaging and promotion of alcoholic drinks, but does not explicitly cover sponsorship by alcohol companies. Additionally, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) code, administered by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), is primarily concerned with the content of marketing communications, for example, prohibiting marketing which suggests that alcohol can enhance mental or physical capabilities or sporting achievements, but again, without referring specifically to sponsorship agreements. These provisions are reinforced by the Social Responsibility Standards for the Production and Sale of Alcoholic Drinks (Scotland), which support the promotion of the broader social responsibilities that go with the sale of alcohol, and underpin social responsibility within the context of licensing laws, again without making explicit reference to sponsorship activity.

1.4 Thus the Guidelines were intended to go further than existing relevant codes, requiring a range of commitments and standards on the part of all those involved in sponsorship agreements.

1.5 The Scottish Government's Framework for Action, published in March 2009, stated that the Government "will continue to monitor the implementation of the SGAIP Sponsorship Guidelines and consider whether further action is required". As part of this monitoring activity, the Scottish Government, in partnership with the SGAIP, commissioned Ipsos MORI to conduct an independent review of the Guidelines, beginning in the summer of 2011.[1]

Aims and objectives

1.6 The overarching aim of the review was to evaluate knowledge of, and compliance with, the Guidelines by the alcohol industry, with a focus on identifying best practice and examining whether there is a need to enhance and improve the Guidelines, to ensure they remain fit for purpose. The specific objectives of the research were to:

  • map the landscape of sponsorship activity across Scotland
  • identify the level of knowledge of the Guidelines
  • review current practice in the way the Guidelines are being interpreted and implemented
  • identify good practice of how the Guidelines are being applied
  • identify areas of non-compliance with the Guidelines, and reasons for this
  • make recommendations, which may include recommendations for enhancing and improving the Guidelines, to ensure they are fit for purpose.


1.7 The research comprised three phases: a desk-based mapping exercise; a series of in-depth interviews with industry representatives, independent stakeholders and rights-holders (that is, those who own the rights to a sponsored activity/event, e.g. a football club or festival organiser); and focus groups with industry representatives.

Phase one: mapping exercise

1.8 The aim of the mapping exercise was to establish the level of knowledge of the Guidelines and the range of sponsorship activity undertaken by the alcohol industry in Scotland since the Guidelines came into effect.

1.9 The sample for this phase was provided by the SGAIP and therefore comprised primarily SGAIP member organisations. In addition, to provide reassurance that no examples of large-scale sponsorship agreements had been missed, the Ipsos MORI research team trawled the internet for examples of any other alcohol companies who might be undertaking sponsorship activity in Scotland, and of events in Scotland which may be sponsored by alcohol companies. However, no additional companies were added into the sample.

1.10 Participants were asked to include in the pro-forma only commercial sponsorships with a value of £5,000 or more (see below). This means that local alcohol companies, which tend to have smaller production levels, were largely excluded from the research. It should be noted that, as a result of not having been involved in the SGAIP, local alcohol companies, are potentially less likely to be aware of the Guidelines, and therefore perhaps less likely to be complying with them. Although the research is unable to confirm whether or not this is the case, interviewees did suggest that low awareness among smaller companies is an issue that needs to be addressed.

1.11 All alcohol companies in the sample were sent a pro-forma and invited to record in this their relevant sponsorship activities (a copy of the pro-forma is provided in Appendix A). Reflecting on the scope of the Guidelines, and to keep the task manageable, companies were asked to include in the form only commercial sponsorships that were signed in Scotland after 1 February 2009 (and/or activities that were signed before 1 February 2009 but are still active/ongoing) and have a value of £5,000 or more. For each sponsorship, they were asked to record a number of details including: the industry segment of the sponsoring brand; the nature of the event/activity sponsored; and the target population of the event/activity. The pro-forma also included a number of survey style questions to gauge awareness and perceptions of the Guidelines.

1.12 The pro-forma was sent to a total of 24 companies; 21 of which completed and returned it. Fieldwork was conducted between 12th and 30th September 2011. The remaining 3 companies did not return the pro-forma.

Phase two: in depth interviews

1.13 To explore awareness and perceptions of the Guidelines in more detail, and assess current practice in respect of implementation, a series of in-depth interviews were conducted with representatives from the alcohol industry contacted at Phase 1, independent stakeholders and rights-holders (that is, the person or entity that owns the rights to a sponsored activity/event, e.g. a football club or music festival organiser). Table 1.1 summarises the numbers of interviews conducted and the methods used.

Table 1.1: In depth interviews

Audience Method Number
Industry representatives Telephone 7
Independent stakeholders Telephone or face-to-face 3
Rights-holders Telephone 5

1.14 The industry participants were chosen from among the 21 individuals who returned completed pro-formas. They were selected to be broadly representative of the 21 in terms of their sector, self-assessed knowledge of the Guidelines and their sponsorship activity.

1.15 The independent stakeholders and rights-holders were chosen by the Project Advisory Group in consultation with Ipsos MORI. The stakeholders represented organisations which campaign on alcohol issues and/or aim to promote good practice in alcohol policy and/or sponsorship. The rights-holders came from the sport and entertainment sectors. Fieldwork took place between 10th and 28th October 2011.

Phase three: focus groups with industry representatives

1.16 Phase 1 and 2 of the research culminated in the production of a set of draft recommendations for enhancing the Guidelines and ensuring compliance. The purpose of the focus groups was to engage the alcohol industry in discussions about the recommendations to ensure that these were deliverable and in the spirit of the Guidelines.

1.17 Two groups were arranged to coincide with a SGAIP event on 23rd November 2011. All SGAIP members, as well as other key industry representatives who completed a pro-forma (33 individuals in total), were invited to take part and roughly half (13) of them attended on the day.

Structure of report

1.18 The next chapter presents an analysis of the data provided in the pro-formas regarding sponsorship activity undertaken in Scotland. Chapter Three explores knowledge and perceptions of the Guidelines among industry, rights-holders and independent stakeholders. Chapter Four reviews how the Guidelines are being interpreted and implemented by alcohol industry sponsors and rights-holders, and also considers participants' suggestions for enhancing the Guidelines and ensuring implementation in the future. The final chapter sets out recommendations for enhancing the Guidelines, to ensure they remain fit for purpose.


1.19 Ipsos MORI would like to thank all the research participants for taking the time to participate in the study and for their invaluable input.


Email: Iain MacAllister

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