Chris Reed
May 6, 2013

Will the rest of Asia follow Australia in giving up drink sponsors?

I find it amazing that when I walk out of playing squash in Singapore’s Kallang Tennis and Squash courts that I am confronted with more fast food outlets than I can count on one hand. I find this more even more contradictory as this is also where the Singapore Sports Council and Singapore Sports Hub are located!

Will the rest of Asia follow Australia in giving up drink sponsors?

Singapore is lucky. It is not an obese society. People here eat healthily and drink in moderation if at all. They are also very sporty with runs, walks, cycles and sundown, sunrise type activities occurring all year round even though humidity reaches 90% and temperatures average 32C. This is even more remarkable when you consider there are no seasons in Singapore which in turn breeds an all-round fitness focus for residents. Other countries are not so lucky.

Alcohol is the new cigarette when it comes to sponsorship. Questions about the connection are being asked more and more. I am sure that fast food will be next.

A recent Australian survey found that sporting clubs and the wider community have much to gain from breaking the ties between alcohol and sporting sponsorships. As well as gains in reducing alcohol related harm benefits include increased community participation in sporting clubs and more money generated by clubs.

In Australia it was announced that twelve of the country’s leading sporting organisations have agreed to shun alcohol sponsorship, accepting federal money instead.

In an article titled “Alcohol management in community sports clubs: impact on viability and participation” by Ian Crundall, the author investigated whether improved alcohol management delivers additional benefits to sporting clubs in the form of financial viability, expanded membership, increased spectators and greater capacity for competition.

Alcohol and sport in countries like Australia, the UK and US go together like hand and glove. Before Barclays came along the English Premier League (EPL) was sponsored by beer brand Carling for example. Budweiser sponsor the FA Cup and Carlsberg are one of the sponsors of various EPL clubs not to mention that Smirnoff is a Manchester United sponsor to name but a few high profile global alcohol/sport sponsorships.

The article discusses the Good Sports Program, which aims to challenge behaviours where alcohol is reinforced as integral to club participation, relaxation and the celebration or commiseration of wins and losses, and also aims to reduce irresponsible alcohol use within club settings.

It says the Good Sports program delivers lower rates of risky drinking, citing a study of football club members in Australia, where the prevalence of risky drinking was 68% lower among the Good Sports clubs compared to members of non-Good Sports clubs.

Similarly, risky drinking among males at certain cricket clubs was found to be less than half that among members of non-Good Sports clubs.

Crundall also suggests that de-emphasising alcohol at sporting clubs will create an environment that is attractive to more people creating a safer, more comfortable and relaxed environment that will attract more families, women and juniors and therefore contributing to the long-term sustainability of clubs.

With sporting associations such as Swimming Australia, Cricket Australia, the Football Federation of Australia, and Basketball Australia all signing up to the Australian Federal Government’s program to replace alcohol sponsorship with a campaign against binge drinking called “Be The Influence”, it seems inevitable that, alcohol sponsorship will follow the way of tobacco.

Surfing Australia have now been added to this list and has abandoned alcohol brand sponsorship to promote the anti binge-drinking message as part of the government sponsored campaign. This is clearly a significant move as alcohol brands have sponsored their events in the past. Will fast food be next?

Will Singapore follow this with a ban on fast food outlets near sporting locations like the new Sports Hub? Surely everyone can see the connection and the dangers? Someone who has just burnt hundreds of calories in a game of squash is hungry and thirsty and the fast food urges that mass advertising and strategically placed outlets can overwhelm the weak willed and all that good work has been for nothing as the pounds are piled back on and the arteries clogged.

Fortunately most runs and sporting activities in Singapore are sponsored by financial brands or telcos or supermarkets. Maybe a voluntary code is already in place that excludes alcohol brands in a nation more used to drinking coffee and tea than alcohol, the opposite of Australia.

Next step are the outlets and the new Sports Hub complex is a great opportunity to ensure that the healthy message is communicated effectively before Singapore does have an obesity problem. Prevention is always better than cure as sponsorship history with cigarettes and now with some alcohol brands has taught us.

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