The Impact of Alcohol Sponsorship of Sporting Events on Consumption of Alcohol Amongst High School Students: a Research Proposal
This research project is designed to determine the effects on the perceptions of alcohol amongst Australian high school students caused by alcohol sponsorship of sporting teams and events.
The aims of this research are to determine:
•How young Australians perceive alcohol and what effects sport sponsorship has on these perceptions •Attitudes towards alcohol consumption and how these are effected by sport sponsorship
While research has been conducted internationally there is no Australian research examining this issue within the Australian society. This research establishes the connection between alcohol sponsorship of Australian sporting events and the perceptions and attitudes held by Australian teenagers towards alcohol. The research will also determine whether a greater effect is had on males than females or vice versa and how the effects differ depending on age and social demographics. It is important to determine whether alcohol sponsorship of sporting events is contributing to the development of alcohol related problems and alcoholism in order to assess whether further restrictions need to be put in place.
There is much conjecture surrounding the issue of alcohol companies sponsoring sporting teams and events. Many groups believe that a ban similar to that placed on tobacco companies should be placed on alcohol companies (Jones, 2010) given that alcohol companies benefit from the association with elite athletes and the perception of a healthy lifestyle (Rehm & Kanteres, 2008). While concerns are expressed from sporting bodies that the significant loss of revenue which would result from banning alcohol sponsorships outweighs any social benefits; a solution was found for lapsed tobacco sponsorships which were replaced by health promotion organizations (D’Arcy, et al., 1997).
Many similarities have been drawn between tobacco and alcohol sponsorships and some researchers have suggested that the sponsorships act as advertising targeted at children and adolescents (Ledwith, 1984; Maher, Wilson, Signal, & Thomson, 2006). There is still insufficent evidence to determine the effect of alcohol sponsorshi p on children’s attitudes towards alcohol; however sponsorship does allow for advertising during children’s viewing times, not otherwise permitted (Jones, 2010). This review looks at studies on both alcohol and tobacco sponsorships of sporting events from various countries and how they have affected views of alcohol and tobacco companies, athletes and social norms.
There is significant evidence to suggest that the relationship between alocohol and sport influences the attitudes and behaviours of sports fans; Nelson & Weschler (2003) found that young sports fans drink more alcohol and experience more alcohol-related problems. While Jones (2010) identified the relationship between alcohol and sport as a key cvontributor to alcohol related harm in Australia. It has also been discovered that alcohol advertising influences young peoples’ drinking intentions (Stacy, Zogg, Unger, & Dent, 2004) and perceptions of drinking as a normative behaviour (Caswell, 1995). For these reasons television advertising by alcohol companies is not permitted during children’s viewing times; however loophole exists which allows for an exception during sporting events televised during these time periods on weekends and public holidays (Jones, 2010). This is a major incentive for alcohol companies to sponsor sporting teams and events; additionally they are able to improve their image by associating with a healthy activity which can often obscure the health risks associated with consumption of their products (McDaniel & Heald, 2000; Maher, Wilson, Signal, & Thomson, 2006; Rehm & Kanteres, 2008). Crompton (1993, p.162) contends that sponsorship by alcohol companies promotes the image that alcohol is “not very different from soft drinks, and its negative consequences such as traffic deaths, domestic violenmce, physical deterioration and pregnancy risks are ignored”.
Alcohol companies argue that their sponsorship and advertising do not target viewers under tha age of 18 (Jones, 2010) and further that they have no effect beyond brand switching amongst current drinkers (Crompton, 1993). This was supported by Smart (1988), who found that advertising bans had little impact on overall sale of alcohol and alcohol advertising expenditures have no effect ib total alcohol sales. Despite much objection to the contradiction of alcohol sponsoring sporting events; event organisers and sporting organizations are strongly opposed to letting go ofone of the major product categories associated with sports sponsorship. It is estimated that alcohol companies account for nearly 10% of total sports sponsorship in Australia; in excess of $50 million per annum (Jones, 2010). Sporting organizations also suggest that without the funding provided by alcohol sponsorships many community programs would suffer, having an overall negative effect on communities (McDaniel & Mason, 1999). There are numerous noted differences between alcohol and tobacco products; specifically that alcohol is not harmful in moderation (Sheehan, 1989), total advertising bans do not exist for alcohol companies as they do for tobacco (Jones, 2010)and that society finds alcohol companies more palatable than tobacco companies as sponsors (McDaniel & Mason, 1999).
Despite this, many groups are calling for bans to be placed on alcohol sponsorships similar to those placed on tobacco companies in the 1980’s and 90’s. The argument from sporting organizations that no such ban would be viablew without providing them access to an equal alternate source of revenue was also put forawrd in the face of bans on tobacco companies. The solution provided was to divert some of the revenue from taxes on tobacco products sold into state based health promotion organizations, such as VicHealth in Victoria, which provided sponsorship funds to organizarions previously sponsored by tobacco companies (D’Arcy, et al., 1997). This not only ensured that sporting orgnizations did not suffer any financial loss but also provided direct access for the health promotion organizations to individuals directly targeted by tobacco advertsing to deliver an anti-smoking message. A similar solution would be available in the case of alcohol sponsorships given the already established organizations and the high level of taxes placed on alcohol products sold in Australia.
While there is evidence to suggest that sports fans are more likely to consume alcohol (Nelson & Weschler, 2003) and that alcohol companies use sponsorship of sporting events to minimise the association of alcohol with the social problems it contributes to (Maher, Wilson, Signal, & Thomson, 2006) it is still unclear what attitudes and behaviours are directly attributeable to the relationship between alcohol and sports. Rehm & Kanteres (2008) identify an assocation between sponsorship and problem dirnking and Jones (2010) cite a connection between sponsorship and alcohol related harm; however there is no empirical evidence that children and adolescents are more likely to develop alcohol related problems as result of the connection between alcohol and sporting events.
Jones (2010) identified three critical considerations ; whether sports sponsorship enables the alcohol industry to target young drinkers, whether or not a connection between sport and alcohol is appropriate and finally whether a ban on alcohol sponsorship is financially viable for sporting groups. The case study of banned tobacco sponsorships suggest that it is financially viable; however, the question still remains as to whether or not it is necessary.Further research is required to determine the extent to which alcohol sponsorship of sporting events influences the attitudes and behaviours of young people. This includes revierwing if the message sent by these sponsorships encourages irresponsible drinking behaviours, such as drink driving and vioelnce and also if additional alcohol sales are resultant from advertising or simply brand switching and product loyalty amongst existing drinkers.
This research project will adopt a survey methodology; as the research will deal predominantly with quantitative data the use of surveys is the most effective method. Surveys are also most appropriate when dealing with large and geographically broad populations; in this case across the entire country of Australia. The use of a questionnaire is an ideal way to gather information on demographics, attitudes towards alcohol, involvement and engagement with sporting events and the effects of alcohol sponsorship on attitudes towards alcohol.
Data Collection Methods
Given the large population of the research the data will be collected using a questionnaire and Likert scale. This is the most appropriate data collection method to accompany the survey methodology selected. The questionnaire will assess demographic characteristics such as age, gender and postcode. A Likert scale will then be used to determine perceptions and attitudes regarding alcohol, sport, advertising and sponsorship. The use of these data collection methods is the most appropriate way to gather meaningful data from the large population and ensure that it is easily interpreted.
The frame of this study will include Australian high school students; a simple random sample will be used by assigning every secondary school in Australia a number and selecting 20 at random. If any school declines to participate additional schools will be chosen at random until a sample of 10000 students or more has been achieved. The use of a probability based simple random sample is a more appropriate sampling technique than using a non-probability method as it ensures that a true representation of the population is given. Having the sample representative of the population is imperative in order to generate data which can be generalized to the entire population. Demographics of participants will be recorded in order to record what effects these may have on responses; however no demographics will be specifically targeted through sampling techniques.
The data will be analysed in 3 stages; first students’ attitudes towards alcohol, then their attitudes towards sporting events and finally the influence alcohol sponsorship of sporting events affects their attitude towards alcohol. By analysing the data in this way students attitudes towards both alcohol and sport are analysed separately before being compared in order to determine what relationship exists between them. These results will then be cross referenced against demographic statistics collected through the survey.
It is important to ensure that all questions posed within the questionnaire are neither biased nor leading and must also be non-ambiguous. This ensures that accurate and informed responses are given by all respondents.
Validity and Reliability
By using a large random sample it is ensured that any biases or external effects are minimized and repeating the same survey using a different random sample would generate the same results. The survey is also designed to understand the attitudes of Australian high school students, aligning directly with the aim of the study. The study will also be carried out over a 12 month time period, using time triangulation to further ensure reliability.
The issue of alcohol sponsorship of sporting events continues to be a divisive issue. It has been established that such sponsorships allow alcohol companies to gain awareness amongst children and adolescents in ways not otherwise possible given restrictions on traditional advertising. There is also widespread concern that a connection between the health benefits of sport and physical activity and alcohol companies masks the negative social and physical health affects which can be caused by alcohol. However, it remains unclear to what extent these sponsorships influence the attitudes and behaviours of young people.
Through surveying a random sample of Australian high school students research would determine their attitude and exposure to sporting events, their perceptions and attitudes towards alcohol and what connection exists between the two due to sponsorship and association. A large sample and longitudinal study ensure adequate reliability and triangulation of the data, by ensuring clear and non-biased questions are used the survey remains ethical and valid and finally the recording of demographics helps to establish whether certain ages or genders are more likely to be affected. This research builds upon existing research, adding a new dimension by looking at the attitudes of young people directly exposed to alcohol sponsorship and advertising.
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