Monday, 29 December 2014

There is no evidence linking sports sponsorship with children drinking


A few days ago "...a group of medical leaders, public health campaigners and health charities" wrote to The Guardian calling for the banning of sports sponsorship by drinks companies:

Our children deserve a better future and we must take the opportunity to give it to them. Self-regulation of alcohol advertising isn’t working when it allows drink brands to dominate sporting events that attract children as well as adults, creating automatic associations between alcohol brands and sport that are cumulative, unconscious and built up over years. Evidence shows that exposure to alcohol advertising leads young people to drink more, and to drink at an earlier age.

The lead signatory of the letter was Professor Sir Ian Gilmore perhaps the UK's leading temperance campaigner and a man who has never knowingly missed the opportunity to exaggerate, embellish and invent statistics to promote his mission to limit, perhaps to prohibit, drinking. And our natural instinct to protect children is a high value trump card to the likes of Sir Ian.

So - given that drinks brands have been advertising their brands on the shirts of football, rugby and cricket teams for a couple of decades, we'd expect there to be more teenage boozers drinking more alcohol. The problem is that this isn't true (pdf see page 122):

Thirty two per cent of young people reported having had an alcoholic drink. This represents a significant drop-off from LSYPE1, when 55 per cent of young people reported having tried alcohol. This fall appears to have taken place across almost all groups of young people.

This comes from a detailed longitudinal study by the Department for Education which makes it pretty reliable as evidence. So over the period when drinks brands have been sponsoring high level sport the consumption of alcohol by children and young people has fallen by around 40%. This suggests that Sir Ian and his pals have absolutely no evidence to support their argument. Not that this makes any difference to them using the argument.


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