High-profile fixtures and events would struggle to survive if bans on alcohol advertising are adopted
The Heineken Open, the All Blacks Steinlager Series, Jim Beam Homegrown - high-profile events, teams and festivals would have a serious funding shortfall if the Law Commission's recommendations on alcohol advertising and sponsorship became reality.
The commission's report on alcohol, released this week, recommends controls which would allow only factual advertising and a ban on anything showing an association with social, sexual or personal success.
A further recommendation was a complete ban on alcohol-related sponsorship for music and sporting events and activities.
The Government is considering the report and will report back within 120 working days.
The commission report said $33 million went into alcohol advertising in 2008, with four times that going into other promotions, including sponsorship.
One report said $150 million was spent on advertising around sporting and music events in 2006.
For 13 years Heineken has sponsored the men's international tennis tournament in Auckland, taking over from Benson & Hedges after a crackdown in tobacco advertising.
Heineken Open director Richard Palmer said the sponsor was a significant part of the total revenue, which was somewhere between $500,000 and $1 million.
"If we lost Heineken and couldn't find another sponsor, we couldn't run the tournament. If we didn't have the profits, it would make it difficult for us to run what we do domestically for our 10,000 club members."
Steinlager has been linked to the All Blacks for 30 years, and provincial rugby relies heavily on sponsorship from beer companies.
"When you think Steinlager, you think All Blacks, and when you think All Blacks, you think Steinlager," said NZ Rugby Union commercial manager Paul Dalton.
He said beer sponsorship was worth millions and was a lifeline to local rugby clubs, but did not know exact numbers.
"It would be a massive kick in the guts, and it would be for other sports as well. There would be significant consequences across the sports industry."
The potential for sponsorship in New Zealand is relatively small.
The commission suggested extra taxes could make up the shortfall, but the Government has said that was unlikely. The commission cited research that "advertising leads to the early onset of drinking and heavier drinking by young people who already drink".
Other research showed that sponsorship through sporting activities, for example, reached a young male audience - the group most likely to be heavy drinkers.
The industry is self-regulated through the Alcohol Standards Authority, a situation the commission said was inadequate.
The commission looked at complaints that were dismissed because they were found not to have specially targeted a young audience.
These included an Export Gold advert of a euphoric neighbourhood party, the Tui adverts of young men stealing beer surrounded by beautiful women, and a Kentucky Bourbon and Cola advert that asks if "your mate's Mum gives you a woody".
The report said: "Regardless of whether the advertisement has 'special appeal' to minors, the key messages and associations that underpin the whole advertisement are strongly aspirational for young people."
It suggested a three-stage plan for a new regime within five years, which would begin with the creation of a government committee that would oversee a new, stricter advertising regime.
The alcohol industry says it does not advertise to promote more drinking, but to promote a brand in a competitive market.
DB spokesman Mark Campbell said strangling advertising and sponsorship would not make any difference to alcohol abuse.
Changing attitudes is what is needed, and the way alcohol is advertised at the moment did not contribute to a harmful drinking culture, he said.
If the company could not sponsor music and sports events, it would look for different avenues to promote its brand.
Mr Dalton said the rugby union promoted responsible drinking.
WHO SPONSORS WHAT?
All Blacks: Steinlager
Heineken Open (tennis): Heineken
Rugby World Cup: Heineken
Big Day Out: Jim Beam, Smirnoff, Jagermeister
Splore: Tiger, Jagermeister
Homegrown festival: Jim Beam