USA: Major League Soccer Opens Floodgates for Alcohol Promotion
Major League Soccer has drastically changed their commercial sponsorship guidelines opening floodgates for alcohol promotion. The move would allow 24 clubs to secure jersey and stadium naming rights for sponsorships from Big Alcohol and sports betting companies.
The news comes not even a month after the NFL changed their advertising policies allowing Big Alcohol to use active players in beer ads for the first time.
Profit over health
The new rules also represent a loosening attitude toward liquor sponsors, who were until now prohibited from doing business with MLS clubs in a manner that beer and wine sponsors were not. Like gambling operators, spirits brands can now adorn MLS clubs’ jerseys and also become stadium naming-rights sponsors.
Carter Ladd, the league’s senior vice president of business development said the league wants to appear “progressive” and that they are taking precautions against exposing alcohol ads to under age audiences. The league will prohibit youth-sized replica jerseys from bearing such sponsors, and will bar them from appearing on the uniforms worn by clubs’ academy and youth players.
The problem is many of the audiences watching live and via sports programmes will be youth and kids. These “precautions” will not reduce their exposure to alcohol ads. The new rules will inevitably increase kids and youth exposure to alcohol ads leading to higher consumption, normalization of alcohol and higher alcohol harm.
As always its a case of profit over health. As Carter Ladd stated they expect the league’s new guidelines to “double, if not triple our revenues” from spirits sponsors, which he currently placed in the “seven-figure range.
Harms of alcohol ads in Sports
The World Health Organization (WHO) has called for the sports industry embrace a socially-responsible approach to commercial sponsorship and advertising, an approach which emphasizes the future health of sports’ fans, families and communities. Suggesting the sports industry to conduct research on the effects of marketing by health harmful products.
Public health experts have continuously called out the sports industry on health harmful marketing in sports. It is contradictory to market products which are harmful to health in sports – an activity seen as healthy. The marketing not only exposes kids and youth to alcohol but also normalizes it in society. The pervasive alcohol norm blindsides people to the harms of alcohol thereby increasing the problems it causes to people and society.