Advertising associated with the Speight's brewery sponsorship of the Highlanders Super Rugby team is socially irresponsible and promotes alcohol to minors, a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority says.
Speight's became the naming rights and jersey sponsor of the Highlanders this season, and the brewery's name and distinctive three-star logo are in the centre of the playing strip.
That has attracted the ire of lobby group Alcohol Healthwatch, whose executive director Nicki Jackson lodged the complaint.
The guidelines in the Code for Advertising and Promotion of Alcohol were that alcohol sponsors names should only be displayed briefly and in a subordinate way, Dr Jackson said.
"The size and placement of the Speight's logo on the Speight's Highlanders team kit features in a manner that is not at all subordinate," she said.
"There is no other placement available or feasible on the playing and training jerseys that could be more prominent."
The visual portrayal of the Speight's brand name and logo at home ground Forsyth Barr Stadium was not brief, but was characterised by frequent repetition and near constant exposure, Dr Jackson said.
Alcohol producers were not permitted to engage in sponsorship where those under 18 were likely to comprise more than 25% of the participants or spectators, and rugby players were heroes to many young people, Dr Jackson said.
As well as match days, Highlanders players had worn Speight's branded clothing at many promotional events aimed at young fans, she said.
"Having professional athletes as heroes and role models for children is a positive thing but they should not be a medium for alcohol advertisements or prominent alcohol sponsorship advertisements."
The Highlanders had declined to comment when approached yesterday.
A spokeswoman for Lion, the owner of Speight's, said to date the company had not received a complaint from the ASA.
It did not know the content of the complaint, and hence was unable to comment.
"We are happy to comment on the complaint once it has been through the correct and proper process."
Authority executive officer Hilary Souter said Dr Jackson's complaint was still in the early stages of processing.
"We are processing that. There are a number of steps for it to go through and as part of our process we publish decisions.
"There will be a decision published on the complaint in due course."
If the ASA upheld Dr Jackson's complaint, the Highlanders would likely have to remove or amend the placement of the Speight's logo on the team jersey and other promotional branding.