May 2022 

In the May edition of The Shout NZ, NZABC’s Bridget MacDonald discusses a Members’ Bill that proposes banning alcohol brands from sports sponsorship when Kiwis are actually quite comfortable with alcohol on social occasions and sports sponsorship and advertising, and that more pragmatic and targeted measures are required to support moderate consumption and tackle harmful drinking.

A Bill in the Members’ ballot proposes to stop the “normalisation and glamorisation” of alcohol and reduce alcohol-related harm by banning sports advertising and sponsorship. As an industry, we 100% support reducing the misuse of alcohol and harm. However, advertising and sponsorship are already well-regulated by the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act and the Code for Advertising and Promotion of Alcohol. Industry supporters of local clubs and international teams operate to high social responsibility standards, and we support consequences for breaches.

Government statistics show most Kiwis are responsible drinkers and consume 25% less alcohol than in the ’70s. So, is normal problematic? What are Kiwi’s thoughts on advertising and sponsorship? Would the Bill reduce harm?

Four out of five (78%) agreed with the statement, “I am comfortable with beer, wine and spirits being part of our normal Kiwi social occasions,” 12% disagreed, and 8% couldn’t decide. Even 78% of non-drinkers agreed.

Our drinking culture is evolving and establishing new norms toward moderation and a balanced lifestyle. It’s okay to choose a no-alcohol beer, enjoy your low-alcohol wine or sip and savour a full-strength spirit. It’s about socialising and connecting with friends and family over food and a drink – it’s the sociability, not the alcohol, that is the reason for getting together. It’s likely why around two-thirds (65%) of Kiwis feel comfortable not drinking alcohol on a night out.

Advertising spending by the industry has increased over the past few years, yet alcohol consumption has decreased steadily. Sponsorship and advertising are not about encouraging people to drink more nor promoting heavy drinking – it’s about promoting one brand over another. There’s no clear evidence that sports sponsorship leads to harmful drinking, while evidence is clear the major influences on drinking behaviour of young people are peer-group norms and parental drinking behaviour. Would banning sponsorship make a difference? Are Kiwis concerned about alcohol advertising?

Well, over half (53%) of Kiwis think the level of industry sponsorship of sport is about right or could be more (33% say it’s too much), and more than half (58%) say advertising levels are acceptable or could be more (35% say it’s too high).

The pathway to reducing alcohol-related harm isn’t achieved by banning advertising or sponsorship; it’s by taking a pragmatic approach through targeted education and support. We can also normalise moderation and empower people to make better drinking decisions based on their personal situation and lifestyle.