UK: New Controls on Alcohol Sponsorship


[author: Vanda Craig]

Alcohol brands have had a historic association with sports sponsorship, but stricter regulation in Europe has been on a steady incline.

31 January 2014 saw the introduction by the Portman Group of the UK’s new Code of Practice on Alcohol Sponsorship (the “Code”).

The Code is a set of rules that governs alcohol sponsorship of sports, music and cultural events in the UK, and seeks to ensure that alcohol is promoted in a socially responsible manner.

The rules imposed upon drinks companies are a combination of activity restrictions (e.g. not to target, or undertake promotional activity that is likely to have a particular appeal to those under the age of 18, and not to sponsor individuals under the age of 18), and pro-active elements (e.g.  sponsorship agreements must include a recognizable commitment to promote responsible drinking and support community activities).

Sporting bodies in particular have had a difficult tight-rope to walk with regard to their partnering arrangements, between on the one hand, attracting sponsors who are able to provide sufficient funding to support their grassroots commitments – and on the other, creating a positive image that promotes the health and general well-being of future generations. Perhaps as a consequence, it is sporting establishments in particular who have been active in their support for the development of Code, with a number formally endorsing it – including,  the England and Wales Cricket Board, the Football Association, the Rugby Football Union, the Rugby Football League, the Lawn Tennis Association and the Premier League.

The Code is clearly an attempt to strike the right balance, although there are those who challenge whether it will produce any discernible benefit, or whether it simply represents a codification of existing good practice. Its full impact, given that it is without retrospective effect, may not be seen for some time however, given that it has already served – simply in its development – to unite and focus major players in the industry and their partners, we anticipate positive results.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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