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Alcohol ads, sport events and billion-dollar loss

Staff writer |
Doctors in Ireland wants a ban on alcohol sponsorship of sporting events and other countries are on the way to ban that multi-billion business too.

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The proposed ban in Ireland is similar to smoking advertising bans in the United States and one of the consequences was NASCAR's names change from the Winston Cup to the Sprint Cup. Just in the U.S. alcohol companies spent more than $1 billion on U.S. sports sponsorship and advertising in the last year, and the money is spent from local events to the biggest events like Super Bowl.

An alcohol in the U.S. would change the picture of major sport events, the way professional sports and broadcasters generate revenue. What would happen to, to name just a few, Chicago's Rock and Roll half marathon with sponsor Michelob Ultra or Milwaukee's Miller Park with the Miller-Coors brewery?

U.S. alcohol industry watchdog Alcohol Justice's Free Our Sports Youth Film Festival project wants to eliminate alcohol ads, sponsorship and promotions from every sport. Alcohol Justice points to a 2004 survey showing that 75 percent of adults back a ban of alcohol ads media oriented toward young population and that includes sports broadcasts.

Among countries trying to regulate alcohol in sports advertising are Australia, the United Kingdom and France.

In Australia, the Australian Alcohol Advertising Review Board (AARB) was formed last year after complaints that companies are targeting young people through sport sponsorship. In the United Kingdom, a total ban of alcohol advertising on sporting event is considered. France brought in a ban on alcohol sponsorship in sports two years ago.

Current rules about alcohol advertising are complex and vary from country to country. In the United Kingdom ads can't be in programs or films where more than 10 percent of the audience is under 18. In the U.S. the voluntary standard is 28.4 percent, set by the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. How they got exactly 28.4 percent, well, that's a good question.

But the problem can't be solves just like that, with one set of rules. As long as there's no education about responsible drinking there will be no use of prohibition and bans can only make industry suffer and lose billions.

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