Children who watch sport on television are being repeatedly exposed to alcohol brands, say researchers who want the practice outlawed.

In a study published today, they say that Sky TV viewers who watched the whole match in which New Zealand lost to Australia in the 2015 Cricket World Cup final in Melbourne were exposed to 519 instances of the Victoria Bitter brand appearing on screen.

The beer's branding was in view, from the Australian players' clothing, for 10 per cent of the match (excluding any advertisements and halftime shows).

"Due to alcohol sponsorship of sport, New Zealanders, including children, were exposed to up to 200 ads per hour they watched televised sport, and people watching football and tennis saw alcohol ads for almost half of each game," said Associate Professor Louise Signal, one of the researchers.


The researchers, whose paper is published in the New Zealand Medical Journal, analysed recordings from Sky TV of five sporting events from the summer of 2014/15: the Asian Cup men's football final in Sydney, The Australian Tennis Open final in Melbourne, a women's League 9s test in Auckland, the Cricket World Cup final, and a Football Ferns women's international friendly in Chicago.

They said the events "attracted large audiences of all ages".

"Marketing drives alcohol consumption by encouraging drinking," say the researchers, from Otago University at Wellington.

"Alcohol ... contributes to over 5 per cent of deaths in New Zealand and costs the country more than $5 billion a year."

Signal said sport sponsorship bypasses traditional marketing and gets around the current advertising codes.

In 2014, a group chaired by former rugby league coach Graham Lowe urged the Government to ban alcohol sponsorship of all streamed and broadcast sports and in the long term to ban alcohol sponsorship of sport in total.

These were among 14 recommendations by the Ministerial Forum on Alcohol Advertising and Sponsorship.

Lowe said last night: "For people to think young people aren't affected and don't log in their memory banks the loyalty factor of seeing so many alcohol ads - you're bloody crazy."

Spokesmen for NZ Football and Justice Minister Amy Adams both said yesterday there was insufficient time to comment on the new study before the Herald's deadline.

Alcohol supplier Lion, whose Kirin and Budweiser brands were among those observed in the study, said it supports many sports organisations and its marketing is responsible.

"The Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 and the Advertising Code for Advertising and Promotion for Alcohol prohibit marketing alcohol to children and young people, and we [ensure] we comply with all relevant laws and codes.

"The aim and effect of alcohol advertising and sponsorship is not to increase consumption - it is to increase or promote brand loyalty. The data bears out this fact: even though channels for advertising have increased, consumption has been steadily trending down."

Association of NZ Advertisers chief executive Lindsay Mouat criticised the Otago University research.

" ... there is no evidence of viewing audience demographics of the events cited provided, when advertisers know that the audience for live sport is predominantly adult.

"Also, the claimed 'exposure' of 1.6-3.8 per minute is grossly overstated as much of this is peripheral."

The Herald sought a response from NZ Cricket and Victoria Bitter supplier Carlton & United Breweries, but nothing came in before deadline.