The Cardiff Business School study, published by the International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship, found that there are no significant statistical correlations between sports sponsorship awareness and attitudes to alcohol use among underage drinkers.
The survey asked 294 pupils aged 14-15 from five schools about their intentions to drink alcohol and to get drunk on the forthcoming weekend. The same students were also asked about their attitudes to drinking alcohol, their involment in sport and a series of questions to determine their awareness of sponsors.
It found the level of a pupils’ engagement in sport, particularly among the boys polled, was more likely to lead to drinking or drunkenness than their knowledge of sponsorship.
The report’s author, Dr Fiona Davies, says although alcohol sponsorship does play a part in “perpetuating and normalising” the culture of drunkenness, prohibition will not work on its own.
“The findings indicate that banning it would have little effect on the traditional male practices of drinking after playing sport, watching televised matches with a beer in hand and so on,” she adds.
Alcohol brands have sponsored sports events and clubs for many years with the money paid generating significant revenues. Current deals include Carling’s title sponsorship of the Football League Cup and Carlsberg’ partnership with Liverpool.
David Poley, chief executive of alcohol industry body The Portman Group, says the study provides evidence that sponsorship “has a comparatively minor effect on drinking attitudes.”
Tim Lefroy, chief executive of the Advertising Association, says the study helps “balance the debate” on underage drinking.
“This research reaches the same conclusions as other studies in the public domain that drinking habits are complex and influenced by many factors, particularly family and friends”, he says.
The marketing of alcohol has come under fire in the past year with calls for a ban on alcohol sponsorship.
In January, the cross-party Health Committee of MPs, called for a ban on advertising or sponsorship of live music or sports events if more than 10% of the audience are under 18 years of age.
The alcohol inquiry followed a report by the British Medical Association in September that demanded an end to the sponsorship of sports and music events by alcohol brands.
Don Shenker, chief executive of Alcohol Concern, which has called for stricter controls on alcohol sponsorship and advertising, says the study shows that a ban on alcohol alone would not in itself reduce alcohol misuse among young people but that a range of measures are necessary.
“However in France for example, where alcohol sponsorship of sports is banned along with other measures, there has been a reduction in alcohol health harms,” he adds.