Alcohol sport sponsors agree to Scottish restrictions

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Responsible drinking Drinking culture Portman group Scotland

Scotland continues to drive ahead with proposed crackdowns on alcohol promotion and sales through new guidelines on how the industry must sponsor sports teams and other cultural events in the country.

Brewers and distillers operating in the country have agreed not back teams, brands or even celebrities that are thought to appeal to consumers below 18 years of age, under a new deal signed this week by drink makers and the Scottish government.

Along with maintaining its commitments to pushing responsible drinking messages at retail venues, the sponsorship guidelines also requires companies to provide activities promoting moderation alongside any commercial deals.

The agreement also bars promotions involving players under the drinking age, and follows other Scottish proposals to raise the drinking age to 21 at retail stores in a bid to curb alcohol misuse.


In recent years, manufacturers across Europe have launched a number of self-regulatory measures and schemes relating to the sale and advertising of their products, in order to allay fears among health charities and officials over alcohol abuse.

Some health groups have previously questioned the true effectiveness of drink makers’ social responsibility initiatives though, claiming that it is unlikely the industry will work to its own detriment.

While Shona Robison, public health minister for Scotland, accepted that the self-regulation alone would not be able to offset concerns about national alcohol abuse, she welcomed the measures nonetheless.

“We appreciate that the industry makes a significant contribution to the promotion of sports and the arts in Scotland, but this comes with responsibilities,” she stated. “I look forward to the rollout and implementation of these guidelines and will monitor their progress with interest.”

George Kyle, who heads multinational brewer Inbev’s UK sponsorship, said that the new guidelines would ensure that it could continue to associate its brands such as Tennent’s with Scottish football and music, while meeting the group’s wider social responsibility aims.

"The launch of the new guidelines will further enhance Tennent's promotion of responsible alcohol consumption in all of our commitments,”​ he stated.

Euro fears

Alcohol companies are also actively involved in sponsoring European sporting events or entire teams, a practice outlawed in France, but allowed in some other markets like the UK.

The Portman group, an industry led UK-based social responsibility group, told that it saw no problems with the practice, providing its own strict guidelines were met by manufacturers.

Michael Thompson, head of communications for the group, said that regulations on sports sponsorship had been continuously evolving and could, if done correctly, benefit both the responsible drinking campaign and sport itself.

However, scepticism still remains over what the industry may obtain from pushing responsible drinking messages.

Andrew McNeill, honorary secretary for the alcohol policy group Eurocare, told last year that around the world, similar industry-led schemes are still viewed with concern by some health professionals.

"One difficulty for the industry is that it is hard to persuade health care groups that it will voluntarily work to its own detriment," ​he said.

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