NRL Fans are Shown Three Times as Many Alcohol Ads as AFL Fans

There are concerns over the link between alcohol advertising and abuse.

10 October 2018, 11:25pm

When 3 million people tuned in to watch the NRL grand final broadcast last weekend, they saw more than a game of footy. According to analysis by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE), viewers were also exposed to 376 instances of alcohol advertising—more than three times the amount seen by viewers of the AFL grand final.

The NRL’s problematic relationship with alcohol is well-known, and was brought into particularly stark focus earlier this year: Damning data released by the New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research revealed that there was “a 40.7 percent average increase in domestic violence and 71.8percent in non-domestic assaults across New South Wales on State of Origin game days”—rugby league’s three biggest days of the year.

In response to the findings, Michael Thorn, chief executive of the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE), declared that “the State of Origin’s particular celebration of heavy drinking… and the toxic level of aggressive alcohol promotion have collided in such a way as to encourage drinking to excess and domestic violence." Dr Melanie Pescud, research manager at FARE, called on the NRL to “reconsider the heavy promotion of alcohol as part of its ongoing sponsorships.”

And yet, less than four months later, 3 million people were exposed to 376 instances of alcohol advertising during the NRL grand final—an average of 29 ads every ten minutes.

"The problem with this, is that it's alcohol advertising that is exposing young people to these alcohol brands," Michael Thorn told the ABC. "And we know from extensive research conducted here in Australia and internationally, that the more children are exposed to alcohol advertising, the greater the risk they will commence their drinking earlier and engage in more incidents of binge drinking."

Of particular prominence were the two Victoria Bitter logos displayed at either end of the field, near the try lines, which accounted for 215 instances of alcohol-related advertisements. Conversely, NSW government ads that warned viewers about the dangers of drink driving appeared just 11 times throughout the entire broadcast.

In light of these figures, Michael and FARE are seeking to launch a campaign against alcohol advertising during sporting events. Of primary concern, he says, is the possible impact that these kinds of ads could have on young people, particularly when linked to role model athletes.

"The bigger issue here is the association with sporting heroes and these major sports,” he said. "Young people associate the drinking and these alcohol brands with those sports and the behaviour of those sports people."

Australian Communications and Media Authority rules attempt to protect children from exposure to alcohol ads by stating that they cannot be shown on television until after 8:30pm on weekends. An exemption exists for sporting matches, however, with major codes arguing that a complete ban on alcohol advertising would have too much of an impact on the economics of sport.