Monday 28 October 2013

Let's make everything like the Rugby Sevens?

The NZ Health Promotion Agency released a pretty interesting study earlier this month. They surveyed attendees at a variety of sporting events about their attitudes towards alcohol and the link between alcohol and those specific events; they were interested in whether alcohol sponsorship and promotion affected things.

Here are some of their findings. Now they didn't quite put it this way, but it's all there in the data. I'm giving you the bullet points. But you can go back to source and check it for yourself. All of this is well within the realms of the obvious (to readers here familiar with the Sevens), but perhaps needs spelling out explicitly.

  • Attendees at the Rugby Sevens really love drinking at the Sevens
    • 82% agree or strongly agree that drinking alcohol makes the event more entertaining. 3% disagreed or strongly disagreed.
    • 93% agreed or strongly agreed that they attend the Sevens because of the atmosphere.
    • Alcohol is an important part of the atmosphere of the Sevens. 77% agreed or strongly agreed that "drinking alcohol at this event is 'just what you do.'" 
    • 90% agreed or strongly agreed that the atmosphere at the Sevens makes them feel more like having an alcoholic beverage. 61% agreed or strongly agreed that the atmosphere made them feel like drinking more than they normally drink despite that 62% agreed or strongly agreed that they had heard messages at the event encouraging moderation in drinking. 
    • 72% agreed or strongly agreed that they were aware of alcohol promotions at the event; 50% agreed or strongly agreed that sponsor signage and promotion contribute to the atmosphere of the event (23% disagreed or disagreed strongly). 
    • Bottom line: drinking and alcohol sponsorship are an important part of the atmosphere at the Sevens, and people go there specifically for that. Banning drinking at the Sevens or banning alcoholic sponsorship at the Sevens would make these attendees worse off.
  • Despite all that pro-drinking stuff for the Sevens, alcoholic sponsor messaging was less prominent there than at the other surveyed events, at least as measured by the TV broadcasts. The electronic revolving billboard around the pitch had Speights up 64 times per hour for a total of 5.43 minutes per hour on the TV broadcasts - not all that often. Of 20 hours of broadcast coverage, they found 5% of the content included shots of the crowd drinking (0.4% of the RWC, 9% at the Heineken Open, 29% at the International T20, 23% at ODI); alcoholic billboards were in-frame for 9% of the broadcast (30% of RWC, 53% of Heineken Open, 26% of T20, 24% of ODI). And alcoholic commercials were also less prominent. I don't see data on the visibility of signs at the events for the fans, but it would be surprising were they more prominent at the place where they're so less likely to show up on-camera.
Alcoholic promotion at the Sevens, as measured by the TV broadcasts, seems far less prominent than at other events. Suppose we were to run a simple cross-sectional analysis and we were to blame any drinking on alcoholic sponsorship and promotions. 71% of attendees at the Heineken Open were aware of sponsorship. 72% at the Sevens. And 56% were aware at the T20 and ODI. But only 14% at the Heineken Open agreed that drinking is 'just what you do' there. 77% said drinking is 'just what you do' at the Sevens. And 38% agreed that drinking is 'just what you do' at the T20 and ODI. Does sponsorship cause high levels of drinking at the Sevens, or low levels of drinking at the Heineken Open? If you increased alcohol sponsorship visibility at the cricket to match that at the Sevens or at the Tennis, which one's drinking culture would follow? If you plotted only the Sevens and the Cricket, you could conclude that banning alcohol sponsorship would make the Cricket more like the Sevens!

Fun one: despite a ridiculously loaded question, "I am very concerned with the exposure to alcohol messages for youth at this event", just over 50% disagreed or strongly disagreed. 

Bottom line: the event most seen as a piss-up has sponsorship-awareness no different from that at the Heinekein Open and has far less visible drinking and alcoholic sponsorship on TV coverage than do the other sporting events surveyed. The relatively sedate tennis and cricket matches have more obvious sponsorship, but less drinking culture. 

It is very hard to see any evidence from this HPA survey suggestive of that you do any good by banning alcohol sponsorship at sporting events. It looks instead like you'd worsen the environment at the Sevens as judged by those who attend it. The Heinekein Open provides a more family-friendly environment despite high measures of alcohol sponsorship because it's that kind of event; the Sevens are rather less family-friendly not because of alcohol sponsorship (which was pretty low for TV-viewers) but because it's that kind of event. 

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