In the Doghouse

Football Sinks Deeper in the Booze Money Mire

our photoshop street team did a little adbusting on Corona's UT ad.Sporting events and sports broadcasts still form one of the great common grounds in America—where people of all ages, all beliefs, from all walks of life, with every kind of lived experience, can come together and be flooded with alcohol advertising. Despite escalating alcohol-related violence at NFL games, the NFL has decided to abandon its policy of rejecting hard liquor ad dollars and allow beer, liquor, rum, and other spirits to buy a place in professional football broadcasts. Not to be outdone by the pros, NCAA’s University of Texas has signed a sponsorship agreement with Corona despite the fact that binge drinking on campuses is epidemic, and a large portion of the student body is not eligible to drink.

The NFL’s new open-door policy comes with a few restrictions. First, liquor ads are limited to four per game, and no more than two in any quarter. Second, the ads cannot be football themed, and 20% must have a social responsibility message. (Though those campaigns may well do more harm than good.) However, the beer industry—a major investor in NFL exposure, with Budweiser paying out almost $1.5 billion for an exclusive sponsorship—carved out a major concession for letting the rival spirits industry to the table: the opportunity to advertise “flavored malt beverages,” which had also been heretofore banned. Flavored malt beverages, better known as alcopops, are Big Alcohol’s entrée of choice into underage drinkers’ hearts, stomachs, livers, and wallets.

If NFL ads fail booze companies in bringing in underage drinkers, college athletics give them a second shot. Historically, colleges have shied away from funding sports through alcohol money, realizing that, with the large number of underage undergrads, directly promoting alcohol formed a total abandonment of their responsibilities to create a healthy environment for their students. But lately, institutions of higher education have backed away from that responsibility, embracing sponsorships and co-branding while hiding behind the same "social responsibility" messaging that has done nothing at all to curb alcohol problems in the NFL. The latest warm embrace of alcohol comes from the University of Texas, whose newly minted sponsorship deal allows Corona to use UT’s “Longhorns” logo in its own advertising, along with the slogan “Horns up, limes in!” UT has failed even beyond the level which many colleges fail in curtailing alcohol use. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Longhorns’ home stadium has the highest per-capita beer sales in the country. This may explain why the Longhorns have not one but two official beers; possibly playing off currents of xenophobia, MillerCoors bought the rights to be the official domestic beer of UT.

This saturation of football with alcohol advertising needs to end. The effects on underage drinking are apparent, and the effects on alcohol-related harm on adults are becoming undeniable. It is time that sports organizations recognize that they important in the lives of fans of all ages, and stop delivering their most vulnerable viewers to their most predatory advertisers.

READ MORE about getting Big Alcohol out of sporting events.

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