This secondary assembly looks at advertising and the powers it has over the public, particulary in terms of alcoholic drinks advertised through sports branding

Summary: This assembly considers the effect of alcohol advertising on young people in the light of the British Medical Association Report, Under the influence. It takes the form of a debate, focussing in particular on the question of sponsorship of sporting events by drinks companies.

Resources: A Leader and two Readers – to present both sides of the debate.

Engagement: Today we are going to talk about the link between sport and alcoholic drinks. Nowadays many clubs and teams receive financial help from business firms, who become their ‘sponsor’. In return for this money they carry the sponsor’s badge or logo on their shirts or their caps. It’s a win-win wituation – the clubs get the money and the sponsors get the publicity. But do we actually take any notice? Let’s find out!

Who’s name appears on the caps of the English cricket team? (Vodafone)

Which football team has “AIG” on its shirts? (Manchester United)

These sponsors are a mobile phone and an insurance company. But let’s look at some teams which have got something in common. Who sponsors Liverpool? (Carlsberg)

Everton? (Chang)

Glasgow Rangers? (Carling)

And here’s one for Rugby fans; London Wasps? (Magners)

So what do these four teams have in common? (Each one is sponsored by an alcoholic drinks company.)

If the British Medical Association has its way, we won’t be seeing those logos in places other than on the products themselves for much longer. The UK’s doctors believe that the country is in deep trouble because people drink too much alcohol. Binge drinking and alcoholism are getting out of hand, and so they’ve called for a complete ban on alcohol advertising in general, and on sports sponsorship in particular.

But are they right? Should the ’Carling Cup’ be made to change its name? Today’s assembly will take the form of a debate. Reader 1 will propose and Reader 2 will oppose the following motion: “That companies who produce or sell alcoholic drinks should no longer be allowed to sponsor sporting events or sports teams.”

Please listen carefully to the arguments.

Reflection

Reader 1: Over the last forty years, people have been drinking more and more. The drinks industry spends about 800 million pounds a year on advertising. What’s more, they have discovered many ways of making alcohol attractive to young people. When our parents went to school, ‘alcohol’ meant beer or whisky and ‘pop’ meant fizzy drinks like lemonade. Then the drinks industry introduced ’alcopops’ which began to blur the difference between the two.

The recent BMA report suggests that because of clever advertising, children who are under the age limit already know the names of alcoholic drinks and often think that those drinks are smart and ‘grown up’.

Young people also enjoy sport and admire sporting heroes. Soccer, rugby and motor racing are just three of the sports which are sponsored by alcoholic drinks companies. We have footballers running up and down the pitch, or driving around the racing track, advertising alcoholic drinks which, if they want to keep fit and win, they themselves should not be drinking!.

That’s just one good reason to keep booze out of sport. So I propose the motion “That companies who produce or sell alcoholic drinks should no longer be allowed to sponsor sporting events or sports teams.”.

Leader: Thank you. And now Reader 2 will oppose the motion.

Reader 2: Alcoholic drinks, such as ales and wine, have been part of our culture for centuries. When grown up people drink legally and in moderation, it does no harm at all. It may even help to make friends. The alcohol industry is legal and plays a huge part in the economy of our country.

Many people enjoy sport too – and professional modern sport cannot survive without sponsorship. If teams can be supported by banks and mobile phone companies, why shouldn’t they be sponsored by drinks companies as well? I oppose the motion.

Reader 1: Sport may well need sponsorship, but it doesn’t have to get it from the drinks industry. France don’t allow drinks to sponsor sports at all. That’s why some British teams have to change their logos when they cross the channel. This time the French have got it right.

Reader 2: But the drinks industry isn’t interested in encouraging people to get drunk. Their advertising advises people to drink in moderation, and makes it clear that you shouldn’t drink at all if you are underage. In fact, they have set up a scheme to discourage binge drinking by young people. I urge you all to reject this motion.

Reader 1: You say the drinks industry doesn’t want to influence young people, but parents are continuously pestered by their children to buy expensive football shirts! If players wear drinks logos on their shirts, then young fans who want to copy them are turned into walking billboards – and the drinks company doesn’t even have to pay them.

Reader 2: We admit that there has been a problem over replica football strips worn by very young children. But two Scottish clubs – Glasgow Rangers and Celtic – are now marketing replica shirts without any drinks logo. And, at the beginning of 2008, the drinks industry agreed a deal that will phase out these shirts completely. That is a sensible way ahead. We say ’Leave drinks sponsorship alone.’

Leader: A big thank you to our speakers – we’ve just got time for a last word from both sides. Let me remind you again of the motion: “Companies who produce or sell alcoholic drinks should no longer be allowed to sponsor sporting events or sports teams.” Our second reader will sum up the case against.

Reader 2: I’d like to speak on behalf of those who work in the drinks industry. If advertising is banned, as the doctors’ report advises, then millions of consumers will have to pay more, and thousands of people could lose their jobs. The drinks industry is already spending money on a campaign to improve drinking habits among young adults.

We can make things better through long term education and tough enforcement of the laws we have already. I oppose the motion.

Reader 1: I’d just like everyone to listen to what the doctors are telling us. Thanks to these massive advertising campaigns, the whole population is drinking more and more, and young people in particular are drinking too much. The drinks promoters may not put up posters saying ‘non-drinkers are wimps’, but their adverts make people think that drink is linked with sporting success, and that anyone who doesn’t drink must be a social misfit. We aren’t trying to ban drink. We simply say ’Keep alcohol out of sport’.

Response

(Optional: Thank you. After listening to the arguments, we will now have a vote. Those who think that drinks companies should stop sponsoring sport – please raise their hands…..Against…?)

Leader: There’s no doubt that the misuse of alcohol is doing great harm in this country – and there’s also no doubt that people disagree strongly about what needs to be done about it – but that is nothing new!

Some of the great world religions and philosophies teach us that alcohol may be used in moderation, while others teach their followers to abstain completely. In this country, a large percentage of the adult population do drink alcohol – and some drink far too much. Others choose an alcohol-free life style – perhaps for the sake of their health, or because of their religious beliefs, or because they’ve seen the harm that alcohol can do.

We shall have to wait and see how the government deals with the BMA report. In the meantime, let’s agree that we will not drink if we are under age, and that when we are old enough to choose we will think before we drink – respecting the choices of people who may think differently.

Please listen to this short poem, and if you wish, make it your prayer.

Help me to stop and thinkBefore I even start to drink.And if I do, to judge how far to go,And when to say a firm and friendly ‘no’;Sharing good fellowship and fun

With special friends… and everyone.

 

This e-bulletin issue was first published in September 2009

About the author: John Coutts has worked as secondary school principal in Nigeria, taught RE in Scotland, and has been involved in teaching and teacher training at the University of Greenwich. He currently works as a freelance writer, poet and performer.

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