(from Sports Business Journal, September 12, 2013) With millions of worldwide viewers tuning in weekly to watch football (soccer) matches, there is no question why companies spend vast amounts of money on marketing platforms within sporting events. However, as recent studies have shown correlation between alcohol consumption and alcohol advertising during soccer matches, there are questions being drawn towards the regulation of marketing platforms for alcoholic beverages. While only a small portion of the broadcast time during a soccer game is dedicated to formal alcohol advertisements (commercials), the more significant issue is being raised against embedded marketing and sponsorship from alcohol companies.
After six soccer broadcasts were studied by the Alcohol & Alcoholism Journal, it was found that a stunning 2,042 visual appearances of alcohol occurred during the matches. Furthermore, there were 32 verbal mentions of alcohol sponsors and even four comments from announcers suggesting that the game winner will have a hangover the next day. The constant bombardment of alcohol symbols during soccer matches can give fans a sense that success and alcohol go hand and hand, a message that many are uncomfortable with, especially those with children viewers in mind. Further research has calculated that soccer fans are hit with about two alcohol references every minute during an average broadcast. When you consider these viral and ambient marketing ploys with the fact that at least 5 million children, ages 14-15, viewed the European Championships last summer, you have to wonder if alcohol companies could soon face the same scrutiny that tobacco companies have endured in the past decades.
While there are regulations in place that prevent alcohol companies from structuring ads which appeal to children, there are currently no rules that combat the constant alcohol branding seen throughout soccer and other sports. As long as sports are thought to be a “pure” or “innocent” form of entertainment, fit for the whole family, there will continue to be a platform for debate about the responsibility of alcohol advertisements to young sports-fans. Many advocates, such as Alcohol Concern’s Emily Robinson, are even calling for all out bans on alcohol ads during sporting events.