Carlton & United Breweries’ Victorian flagship had been central to Australian cricket revenues since 1997 but decided to sign off for “commercial reasons”.
Now mid-strength XXXX has stepped in with a four-year sponsorship deal that will not extend to logos on players kits.
Instead, it will give Lion pourage and signage rights at cricket fixtures, while the kit element will be negotiated separately by Cricket Australia.
The alcoholic drinks industry has come out in support of the agreement, saying it continues a long history of support of Australian sport by its members.
“Enjoying a drink with mates at a sports game is part of Australia’s DNA and the industry is rightly proud of its sponsorship of Australian sport, from the smallest local clubs right up to our national teams,” Alcohol Beverages Australia executive director Fergus Taylor said.
But the deal has disappointed the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, who had called for an end to alcohol sponsorship after VB pulled out.
The college has since criticised CA for its decision to replace VB with another beer brand, arguing it was “out of touch” with public perception.
“The RACP has long campaigned against the impact alcohol promotion during sports is having on children, both at the ground and at home watching on TV. This sentiment is shared by the majority of Australians, with 61% concerned about the exposure of children to alcohol promotions in sport,” the college said in a statement.
Catherine Yelland, the RACP’s president, said the decision by CA was “not aligned to the spirit of the game and continues an unfortunate history of alcohol saturation at a professional level”.
“As doctors we know exposure to alcohol advertising encourages children to start drinking earlier, to binge drink more often and to start a journey toward established drinking and exposure to other alcohol-related harms,” she added.
ABA’s president has hit back angrily at the RACP’s stance, claiming that government statistics show that under-age drinking has been on a “steady decline throughout Australia” for some time.
Taylor said: “The fact that this decline has occurred during a period of increased alcohol advertising is a clear indication that regulations in place are working well.”
He pointed out that the industry did “an enormous amount of work to ensure that this is the case” before any promotional content is seen by the public.
“Recent calls from anti-alcohol activists and health lobbyists for a ban on alcohol advertising in sport, while attempting to blame it as the cause of underage drinking are not based on credible evidence, nor are they supported by official government data,” Taylor added.