Case for Change

The alcohol industry uses sponsorship of sporting, cultural and social events as a key marketing strategy.

Sport is a key sponsorship avenue for alcohol in New Zealand, and includes naming rights, product placement, signage, logos on uniforms, logos on equipment and playing fields, broadcast deals, and exclusive rights to sell alcohol at events. 

Children are often exposed to alcohol branding and consumption through sporting events. 

There is strong public support for restricting alcohol advertising and sponsorship. 

In New Zealand and Australia, tobacco sponsorship of sporting and cultural events has been banned since the 1990s.

Alcohol sponsorship of sporting, cultural and social events is a key advertising strategy utilised by alcohol companies.

In particular, sport is a major vehicle for the promotion of alcohol in New Zealand.

Sponsorship in these settings may include:

  • naming rights
  • mentions in sports broadcasts
  • signage
  • logos on clothing apparel
  • exclusive rights to sell alcohol
  • partnerships and activations with athletes

Many local sports clubs also obtain sponsorship funds and other support from alcohol companies. Research has found that New Zealand children are particularly exposed to alcohol branding during sporting events televised in New Zealand, with alcohol branding visible for nearly 50% of broadcast time on television.

Athletes and sportspeople sponsored by alcohol brands may be at particular risk of harm. This has been shown in New Zealand research whereby alcohol industry sponsorships, in particular the provision of free or discounted alcoholic beverages, was associated with hazardous drinking.

Value of alcohol sponsorship of sport

The amount spent on alcohol sponsorship in New Zealand is not that huge – an unpublished report prepared for Sport New Zealand in 2015 estimated about $21.3 million per year is spent by alcohol companies on sports sponsorship, of which only $13.8 million is direct cash investment, with the remainder being non cash contributions, including alcohol-branded gear and equipment, including uniforms, gear bags and additional clothing items.

The major sporting bodies which receive sponsorship are rugby, cricket, basketball, football. Rugby takes the greatest proportion:  76% and 29% of the total revenue at the regional and community levels respectively.

This amount could easily be replaced by increasing the existing Health Promotion Levy on alcohol and using a portion of these funds to replace alcohol sponsorship with community sponsorship.  It is expected that the major professional sporting codes have the talent and skills within their organisations and networks to find replacement sponsors.

Will taking away alcohol sponsorship damage sport? No!

When tobacco sponsorship was removed, the world did not end and neither did professional or community sport.

A report Effects on Sport of Bans on Tobacco Advertising and Sponsorship in Australia found corporate support for sport nearly doubled from 350 million in 1996 when their federal ban on tobacco advertising and sponsorship came into effect to 700 million in 2000.  The report found no evidence that bans on tobacco company advertising and sponsorship through sport harmed Australian sportspeople or organisations either through revenue raising or sporting achievement.

Many sporting events, teams and codes in New Zealand, which were previously had high profile major sponsorships by alcohol companies, have found other sponsors to take the marquee position while some alcohol sponsorships have shifted to a low key approach, particularly in broadcast presence.

Public opinion

From 2010-2016, results from the Health and Lifestyles Survey strong public support was found for restricting advertising and sponsorship:

  • 80% supported restrictions on alcohol advertising or promotion seen or heard by people under 18
  • 68% support banning alcohol sponsorship of events that people under 18 may attend (increasing from 58% in 2010)

In February 2020 Alcohol Healthwatch commissioned opinion polling from UMR, finding 58% supported the following statement:

  • Sporting organisations should be supported to move away from alcohol sponsorship

In 2019 the same poll asked Should New Zealand children be exposed to alcohol advertising and sponsorship? The resounding answer was 73% of New Zealanders saying no, our children should not be exposed to alcohol advertising and sponsorship.


NZ Herald editorial by Sir Graham Lowe: Keep alcohol ads away from our kids

NZ Herald reporting by Joel Kulasingham: Super Rugby Aotearoa: What's in a name? Why new Highlanders sponsor has 'no place in sport'