May 2, 2023

Replacing alcohol sponsorship in sport: bringing community voice into law reform

Enjoying sport-related activities, whether taking part in, watching on a screen, or viewing from the side-line, should be something everyone can enjoy for their health and wellbeing – without being exposed to alcohol advertising.

However, alcohol sponsorship in sports is deeply engrained across our sporting codes and grades, from grassroots clubs, provincial and national teams to sporting events and tournaments.

Sports sponsorship is the primary way children see alcohol marketing in Aotearoa, with a recent study revealing a child is exposed to alcohol advertising at least once a day, with Māori and Pasifika children being exposed to four to five times more alcohol sponsorship than European children. Alcohol marketing, including sponsorship, increases the risk of children drinking at earlier ages, drinking more once they start and drinking more hazardously. As such, alcohol marketing is considered a causal factor for alcohol consumption. Put simply; alcohol marketing drives consumption.

In April 2021, Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) brought together people working to reduce alcohol consumption to build a movement to end alcohol sponsorship in sport. With an intention to build public support and engender central government’s appetite, the rōpū (group) got to work building momentum and appetite for alcohol law reform. Initially, the rōpū focused on building a robust case for change, including collating research studies, collecting evidence and gathering people’s real-world experiences surrounding alcohol sponsorship in sport.

Healthy Families Waitākere participated in these early discussions and developments, supporting the rōpū and contributing to the body of evidence by sharing data, insights, and uplifting community voice where possible.

Around this time, the Minister of Justice, Kiri Allen, confirmed there would be a review of the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act, although the date and time still needed to be confirmed. This energised the rōpū, as it was clear their call for legislative reform had been heard. However, all plans to continue growing momentum were put on hold until March 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chloe Swarbricks Sale and Supply of Alcohol (Harm Minimisation) Amendment Bill was pulled from the ballot box, presenting the opportunity for it to be debated in parliament. To ensure Regional Sports Trusts had precise information about alcohol sponsorship in sport, Healthy Families Waitākere and Healthy Families South Auckland developed a fact sheet on the impact of alcohol sponsorship in community sport. Alcohol HealthWatch also launched the PasstheBill campaign, a petition supporting law reform. This was the most supported petition to make its way to Parliament in history.

In March 2022, Community Action Youth and Drug (CAYAD) took on the role of backboning the rōpū, with Healthy Families Waitākere and Healthy Families South Auckland supporting their efforts. At this time the aim of the rōpū shifted to emphasizing community voice and increasing representation of the community sport sector. Healthy Families Waitākere contributed to this by bringing in representatives from Sport NZ and Aktive.

Since this time, there have been several announcements from Central Government on proposed amendments, including the Community Participation Amendment Bill, which focuses on increasing community participation in the appeals process.

To best continue the collectives efforts, the rōpū has expanded its scope to ‘transform the relationship between alcohol and sport’, under the three pou; inform and inspire, action and innovation and advocacy. Healthy Families Waitākere will continue supporting the rōpū to achieve the second pou, encouraging and testing of initiatives at a grassroots level.