Reducing harm caused by alcohol


Euros renews call for action to protect children from alcohol sports sponsorship

Health campaigners are highlighting the inappropriateness of big alcohol brands sponsoring high profile sports events, such as the ongoing European Football Championships and exposing millions of under-18s to alcohol brands.

The deliberate product placement of Heineken beer branding in front of football stars and managers, like Paul Pogba, Joachim Low and Kalvin Phillips, during recent press conferences for the Euros is misleading. It suggests that the players are enjoying a post-match drink, when in reality that is not the case.

It comes as research shows that exposure to alcohol sponsorship is associated with increased levels of alcohol consumption and risky drinking amongst schoolchildren, as well as sportspeople.[1] Sports sponsorship also exposes children to significant amounts of alcohol advertisement: almost a third of 11-19-year-olds in the UK recall seeing alcohol sponsorship for sports or events at least weekly, while one in twenty recall seeing alcohol sponsorship daily or almost daily.[2] Exposure is especially high during big sporting events broadcast on TV, such as the current European Football Championships. 

In Scotland, one in four of us are regularly drinking above the Chief Medical Officer’s low-risk guidelines and every year alcohol is responsible for almost four thousand deaths, over thirty-thousand hospital admissions and countless problems for families and communities.

Alcohol Focus Scotland have called on the Scottish Government to curb sponsorship of professional sport by alcohol companies in line with the World Health Organization recommendations. Restricting alcohol marketing is one of the most effective ways to reduce alcohol harm.[3] The majority of the public supports a ban on alcohol companies sponsoring sporting events.[4]

Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland said, “Sport should inspire good health and active participation - and to use it as a promotional vehicle for an addictive and health-harming product is simply unacceptable.

“Whether the product in question is low alcohol or not is beside the point – people are seeing the Heineken logo plastered across the Euros and making the link with the overall brand. Sponsorship by alcohol companies has been woven into the fabric of the sport we love capitalising on our emotional connections to our teams and players so that we associate certain alcohol brands with healthy activity and high-performing athletes. 

“Exposure to alcohol marketing has been shown as a cause of binge drinking and drinking onset among young people. It also influences their attitudes and increases their likelihood of developing problems with alcohol later in life. We need to challenge the idea that alcohol and sport go together and introduce suitable restrictions on marketing and sponsorship to protect our children and young people.  This is something that children themselves are asking us to do.”


17 June 2021