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.

3 Knowledge and perceptions of the Sponsorship Guidelines

3.1 This chapter looks at knowledge and perceptions of the Guidelines among industry representatives, rights-holders and other stakeholders, drawing on findings from both the pro-formas and in-depth interviews.


Self-reported knowledge of the Guidelines was generally high among industry representatives. SGAIP members in particular tended to report knowing a 'great deal' about the Guidelines, with non-SGAIP members being more likely to say they knew 'a fair amount'. There was a perception that smaller alcohol companies perhaps have a lower than average awareness of the Guidelines.

The five rights-holders involved in the research tended to say that they could not actually remember seeing the Guidelines document, and were generally unaware of the detail contained within it. However, there was a sense in which they felt they didn't require an in-depth knowledge of the document as their industry partners should, and do, inform them of their obligations in this regard.

There was almost universal acceptance of, and satisfaction with, the Guidelines among alcohol company representatives, rights-holders and independent stakeholders: the majority considered the Guidelines to be clear, concise and easy to comply with. There was consensus that the Guidelines are effective in promoting responsible drinking, although views were more mixed about whether the Guidelines help promote community and diversionary activities.

Knowledge of the Guidelines

Industry representatives

3.2 In the pro-formas, industry representatives tended to say they knew either 'a great deal' (11) or 'a fair amount' (8) about the Guidelines, with only two industry representatives saying they didn't know very much about them.

Figure 3.1: Self-assessed knowledge of the Guidelines among industry representatives

Figure 3.1: Self-assessed knowledge of the Guidelines among industry representatives

3.3 As might be expected, respondents who sit on the SGAIP were particularly likely to report knowing 'a great deal' about the Guidelines, while non-SGAIP respondents were more inclined to say they know 'a fair amount'. The two respondents who said that they didn't know very much about the Guidelines had not been involved in the initial SGAIP discussions about the Guidelines.

3.4 Industry representatives who did not sit on the SGAIP tended to say that their employer had drawn their attention to the Guidelines, either as part of in-house awareness training, or, in the case of new employees, induction training:

When we have new starts joining the company in the marketing field we make sure they are taken through the induction, and that induction talks about the whole responsible drinking agenda and the Sponsorship Guidelines.

Industry representative

When I first started with our company, our Public Affairs Manager basically gave me a copy of the Guidelines and just said: "This is something you need to be aware of and need to have a knowledge of in your role".

Industry representative

Independent stakeholders and rights-holders

3.5 The three independent stakeholders who participated in the research also felt they were reasonably knowledgeable about the Guidelines, and tended to be aware of the detail contained within them. They commonly reported that, due to their remit within their organisation, they had been sent a copy of the Guidelines upon publication.

3.6 Compared with the independent stakeholders and industry representatives, rights-holders were substantially less knowledgeable about Guidelines. Indeed, a couple of them appeared to find it difficult to recall whether or not they had seen the document and reported that most of their understanding of what was contained within it had come from conversations with their industry partners. There was also a tendency for this audience to almost conflate the Guidelines with similar or related codes, particularly the Portman code (which does not specifically relate to sponsorship agreements), and to assume that if they were complying with those other codes they would also be complying with the Scottish requirements.

I haven't been made hugely aware of them and I've been involved in sponsorship with alcohol companies for [many] years now.


I'm more familiar from my past experience of UK-wide Guidelines rather than the specific Scottish variations of it, but I would say [I have] a reasonable knowledge.


3.7 There was a clear sense in which the rights-holders felt that they do not necessarily require sight of the Guidelines document, nor extensive knowledge of the detail within it. They viewed their industry partners as being knowledgeable and responsible in ensuring their sponsorship activities comply with the Guidelines, and felt the industry should, and do, guide them in this area, as required:

We don't pretend to be experts and that's where we want our partners to say: "This is what you should be doing and this is what you can't be doing", because they are the ones that have to live by these Guidelines.


[My knowledge of the Guidelines] would have been via our partners. You know, if there is any change in the Guidelines or some background bits and pieces of activity that they were carrying out then they would have edited out the relevant bits and sent them over to us.


3.8 Industry representatives and rights-holders alike perceived a lack of awareness of the Guidelines among external agencies they work with, such as PR agencies or event catering suppliers and smaller companies. They felt that greater awareness of the Guidelines among these external organisations would contribute to ensuring the promotion of responsible standards across all sponsorships.

[Awareness] sort of varies. The larger organisations are pretty up to speed with things but we get a lot of contact from smaller local organisations [looking for sponsorship], that maybe don't really [have an awareness] and we have to explain to them: "Look for legislative reasons we can't get involved in this", because we get a lot of requests for things that involve or are directly aimed at young people that we just can't go for and they don't perhaps think of that.

Industry representative

Perceptions of the Guidelines

3.9 Overall, the Guidelines in their current form are seen as being necessary, worthwhile and effective.

3.10 In the qualitative interviews, there was almost universal acceptance of, and satisfaction with, the Guidelines. However, one stakeholder offered a vastly different perspective, highlighting a strand of opinion which fundamentally objects to alcohol being used to sponsor any event, sport, team or attraction.

3.11 This stakeholder pointed out that the exposure of young people, in particular, to alcohol marketing influences their decisions around when and how they consume alcohol and how much they drink. For this stakeholder, a blanket ban on sponsorship by alcohol companies, such as exists in France, is one of the ways in which young people need to be protected, allowing a culture of low alcohol consumption to become more acceptable. They believed the detailed measures in the Guidelines to be irrelevant; commenting, for example, that it doesn't matter if there is a restriction on alcohol companies advertising on children's replica football jerseys, when those same children have posters on their walls that feature their favourite players sporting alcohol-branded clothing, and when they are surrounded by alcohol branding every time they attend a game.

3.12 Many industry representatives felt that the Guidelines really represent what sensible and ethical companies and right holders would be doing anyway. Still, many participants mentioned the clarity of the Guidelines as a favourable aspect, suggesting that this enables both alcohol companies and rights-holders to absorb and implement them relatively easily; makes industry and rights-holders obligations clear; and makes decision-making more straightforward. Related to the clarity of the Guidelines, participants were generally appreciative of the fact that the Guidelines are short, meaning that they are an easy read, a quick point of reference and allow alcohol companies to go further with additional rules if they wish.

….. it does what it says on the tin…… it's not too prescriptive and it just gives people guidance and direction of travel….. about some of the considerations that need to be put in place.

Industry representative

I think what the Guidelines did is give a very clear steer of a number of principles that could and should be applied as part of delivering alcohol sponsorship in Scotland.

Industry representative

3.13 A number of participants thought that the endorsement of the Guidelines by the Scottish Government and, in particular, the Foreword by the Minister for Public Health, was positive, giving the Guidelines credibility and importance. However, of even greater importance to the alcohol companies, rights-holders and other stakeholders, was that the Guidelines are voluntary and not guided by statute or external regulation. For participants, this is seen as positive as it allows them to comply with the Guidelines without the time and complexity involved in stringent regulation.

I think that, in principle, [the Guidelines] are exactly the right way to go….. I think self-regulation is vitally important and there isn't a need to go further and legislate and put in place restrictions.


…. It's a good thing, let's run with it…. to turn it into legislation or to put even more rules and responsibilities in, or Guidelines in, or suggestions in, isn't really necessary because people have bought into the spirit of it. They are therefore not trying to get round the detail of it.

Industry representative

3.14 A number of participants, particularly rights-holders, also felt that the current economic climate makes it vital to avoid making the Guidelines too prescriptive because it's hard enough at the moment to find sponsors. They feared that any tightening of Guidelines would make this position deteriorate, possibly even leading to some events being cancelled.

I've heard rumours in the past…. whereby alcohol sponsorship [might no longer] be allowed… I would be against [the Guidelines] getting tightened because that could lead to sponsorship being banned altogether…. If there's more investment in sport then hopefully you are going to get a healthier nation.


3.15 A number of participants commented that the Guidelines felt similar to other documents and codes which set out good practice in this area, such as the Portman Group Code of Practice. While many commented that this can cause a lack of clarity over which to use and which should take precedence, it was also largely seen as positive in a number of ways: first, it helps to reinforce good practice messages among the workforce at both alcohol companies and rights-holders, giving a consistent message in respect of how things should be done. Secondly it allows industry representatives to push for changes to other codes of practice to bring them into line with the Guidelines; and thirdly, it allows companies who work across the UK to push for similar Guidelines to be adopted in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, bringing best practice in those areas in line with Scotland. Given that the Portman Group is currently consulting on developing specific sponsorship guidelines, there is a challenge for the Portman Group, SGAIP and others to ensure that the different guidelines are aligned and clear.

We have taken the Scottish Guidelines and given them to the Portman Group and said that these are what yours should look like, which I think is about as resounding an endorsement as you can have for them.

Industry representative

We don't only operate in Scotland and we have been able to share them across other areas of business. There is an awareness of an additional level of principles around alcohol sponsorship that we were able to share with our colleagues in England and Wales and across in Northern Ireland and I think that in itself has been a positive benefit.

Industry representative

3.16 As well as being satisfied overall with the Guidelines, participants also generally thought that they were effective against two of the core principles. One of these principles is in integrating responsible drinking messages, ensuring that those signed-up carry prominent responsible drinking messages and avoid linking alcohol with success or any condoning of anti-social behaviour. As the chart below illustrates, over half of respondents (12 out of 21) thought the Guidelines had been very effective in this regard while the remaining nine respondents thought they had been fairly effective. The other principle tested in the pro-forma was around the effectiveness of the Guidelines in promoting diversionary and community activities. Although respondents largely thought that the Guidelines were effective in this regard too, there was less unanimity than in respect of the promotion of responsible drinking, as illustrated in the chart below. This may reflect a lack of certainty among some participants about what was actually meant by diversionary and community activities (discussed in more detail in the next chapter) or a lack of experience in this area.

Figure 3.2: Perceived effectiveness of the Guidelines

Figure 3.2: Perceived effectiveness of the Guidelines


Email: Iain MacAllister

Back to top