Executive summary

Most Aussies love sport: watching an athlete or team use astute decision-making, technical skill and physical prowess to compete to the best of their ability. Alcohol is fundamentally incompatible with these attributes, and yet alcohol marketing saturates Australian sport.

The women and men at the top of their sport are revered for their talent, and children all over the country try to emulate their heroes. Therefore, it is highly problematic when these role models are compelled by commercial deals to promote alcohol, normalising an addictive, psychoactive drug that causes cancer and contributes to the three leading causes of death for adolescents – unintentional injuries, homicide and suicide.

This study sought to explore the prevalence of alcohol companies’ advertising partnerships with men’s and women’s Australian Football League (AFL/AFLW) and National Rugby League (NRL/NRLW) teams, by reviewing their official websites, merchandise and social media channels. A scoring system was developed to rank teams according to the extent of their current alcohol partnerships (three points for alcohol-branded playing kit, two for merchandise or a major alcohol industry partner, and one for other forms of advertising deals). Unfortunately, it was discovered that there was insufficient data to rank the women’s teams, so the results pertain solely to the men’s competition. Data on AFLW and NRLW teams are provided where possible.

This study finds that alcohol advertising deals are widespread in the AFL and NRL men’s competitions. The promotion of alcohol brands is spread across a number of channels, including merchandise, training and playing kit. However, alcohol advertising across the codes is not ubiquitous, with one team in each league having no commercial partnerships with alcohol companies, while a number of others have no major alcohol industry partners. This indicates that alcohol advertising deals are not a pre-requisite for success or popularity of AFL and NRL teams.

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