Writing in the Addiction journal, scientists from universities in the UK and Australia have demanded an end to the practice after research found a link between sponsorship and increased consumption.
A study last year in New Zealand found that excessive consumption was more closely associated with sports stars who are sponsored and given free drinks by alcohol brands than those who are not.
The academics also argue that it should be the alcohol industry and not the public that must prove that sponsorship does not lead to misuse.
David Poley, chief executive of industry-funded The Portman Group, questions the relevance of a study about “amateur sports teams in New Zealand being given free drinks by their local pubs and clubs”, adding “its findings, while interesting, have very limited relevance to the issues surrounding drinks producers’ sponsorship of sport in the UK.”
Karen Earl, chairman of the European Sponsorship Association, says sponsorship is an “easy target”, adding she has yet to see any research that proves the link between the practice and misuse.
The piece in Addiction follows the British Medical Association’s call for a ban on sponsorship of sports and music events by alcohol brands in an attempt to tackle alcohol misuse among young people.