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Cowboys need to buck the trend

News & Events / Cowboys need to buck the trend

It might not be common knowledge how powerful sport is in driving social change and it might also not be well known how influential it can be on children.

In Australia, sport is a common thread connecting millions around the country – young and old.

Through sport, we learn about fairness, equality, respect and tolerance. That means we use sport to combat issues like racism, violence, sexism, and drug and alcohol dependency. But it’s a double edged sword.

Unfortunately, in Australia, sport and alcohol go hand in hand.

Alcohol brands continue to hold sponsorships naming rights over major professional sporting competitions including AFL, rugby, tennis, golf, motor racing and horse racing.

There is an overabundance of alcohol advertising and branding whenever or wherever you watch sport. Whether it’s in person at the stadium, on television, radio and on the internet – it will be staring right back at you.

Even at the community level, many sports played by young people receive alcohol-related sponsorships through national and state sporting organisations.

When smoking became unacceptable, sport dropped tobacco sponsorships; when gambling advertising took over our TV sporting screens, the public outcry forced a change.

The prominent and incredibly popular North Queensland Cowboys recently announced a multi-year partnership with Bundaberg Rum which will see their brand stamped on the chest of the players’ jerseys.

Alcohol companies fully know what they’re doing. They’re more sophisticated and suave in their marketing approach then the latest James Bond. Like James Bond goes hand in hand with a martini – sport goes hand in hand with booze.

Putting the two together – one could assume that because sport is a healthy practice, maybe alcohol is too.

At least 60 percent of Australian children play organised sport. Sponsorship offers alcohol brands like Bundaberg Rum a large youthful audience despite it being agreed by all that alcohol should not be advertised to young people.

Countries like France and Norway get this. And because of that, they don’t allow it. They’ve banned alcohol sponsorship in sport – full stop.

The evidence doesn’t lie. Young people who are exposed to alcohol-branded sports advertisements report higher levels of alcohol consumption. And when we know more than 5,500 people die every year due to alcohol, we can see things needs to change here in Australia.

Alcohol companies are prohibited from advertising between 6am and 8:30pm – sounds good right? But there’s a deliberate exemption – alcohol adverts are allowed to play anytime while sport is being aired on television.

It makes no sense. We know children and young people watch sport. It’s time Australia takes accountability – otherwise our children will grow up to be a statistic.

Putting an end to alcohol advertising is long overdue.

Sporting organisations and teams must acknowledge the role they play and their responsibility in society. There is no need to be so reliant on alcohol companies – they should put the welfare of children before their bottom line.

If we truly want to end the culture of binge-drinking, we can no longer continue to turn a blind eye to the dangers of alcohol sponsorship.

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