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Friday 8 December 2023 Dublin: 9°C
PA Archive/PA Images From Puck Fair in Kerry to the celebrated Cork Jazz Festival, many of our festivals are dependent on drinks industry sponsorship.

'From Puck Fair to the Cork Jazz, our festivals are dependent on the drinks industry'

The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill will jeopardise the partnerships that make cultural events possible, writes Patricia Callan.

IN ALMOST EVERY county around Ireland, local festivals, sporting and arts events attract tourists, contribute to the local economy and sustain the livelihoods of thousands of people in our rural towns and villages. These events, rich in diversity strengthen local identities, culture and support local tourism and the creative economy.

The drinks industry provides €8.5 million in sponsorship for more than 50 arts and cultural events of varying sizes, from Puck Fair in Kerry, to Spraoi in Waterford to the celebrated Cork Jazz Festival, many of these festivals are dependent on such partnerships.

However, strict new proposals in the Public Health Alcohol Bill will decrease the volume and value of sponsorship partnerships for drinks companies. This is because advertising is a crucial part of the sponsorship package and brands “activate” sponsorship through advertisements.

Sponsorship will be difficult even impossible

Typically, a multiple of 3-5 times the value of the original sponsorship is spent activating a sponsorship through advertising. If this becomes problematic or restricted, the value of the original sponsorship agreement (for both the sponsor and the event) may no longer be worthwhile.

The cumulative nature of the advertising restrictions contained in the Bill will ensure activating any event sponsorships will be very difficult and may be impossible.

New measures will effectively restrict a large portion of outdoor advertising (for example a ban on public transport vehicles and stations/ stops or in a park or open space owned by a local authority), and advertising during events.

The effect of the extensive restrictions on the placement of advertisements restricts the ability of drinks companies to activate sponsorship campaigns through advertising. Furthermore, the content restrictions on advertising proposed in the Bill render sponsorship of practically no value to the sponsor and will ban the following imagery on adverts:

  • Images of conviviality – such as scenes in an Irish pub
  • Images of a person consuming an alcohol product
  • Images of people
  • Images involving a story or action sequence – aside from the alcohol production process.

Little consensus in research that points to a relationship between advertising and consumption of alcohol

There is little consensus in research that points to a positive relationship between advertising and the consumption of alcohol. In the context of the Irish market, advertising activity has, in fact, expanded in recent years.

Simultaneously, we have seen a large decline in alcohol consumption (down by 25% since 2005 according to the World Health Organisation). Other factors – especially parental and peer influences – appear to be more powerful in terms of having influence on drinking, especially among underage drinkers.

In France where similar restrictions on alcohol advertising have been implemented they have had no impact on the consumption of alcohol. In fact, French teenagers have been drinking more in recent years, unlike Irish teenagers who have been drinking less, and are now among the most abstemious in Europe (according to the WHO and the ESPAD school survey).

Government jeopardising partnerships that make cultural events possible

There is a real lack of joined up thinking when it comes to government policy. On the one hand the Programme for a Partnership Government states: “the arts belong to everybody and we need to increase access to and participation in, the arts… societies which invest in the arts and heritage are more prosperous, successful societies”. The government has invested significantly in Creative Ireland, a five-year initiative which places creativity at the centre of public policy.

Yet on the other hand the unintended consequences of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill will only serve to undermine this commitment by jeopardising the partnerships that make cultural events possible. A much more workable solution is to place the existing codes on a statutory footing, with significant penalties for breaches.

This could be implemented within a much shorter timeframe with a regulatory authority already in place to police the system.

Patricia Callan is the Director of Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI) which represents alcoholic drinks manufacturers and suppliers in Ireland. Prior to joining ABFI Patricia was the Director of the Small Firms Association, Ireland’s largest small firm representative organisation, with over 8,500 member companies.

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