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The Evidence
Tackling Scotland's Alcohol Problem


Exposure to alcohol marketing is causally associated with the initiation of drinking, an increase in alcohol consumption (including binge drinking), and also an increased risk of relapse (for those in recovery). The reports below look at alcohol marketing and sponsorship and highlight the need for improved policy in order to tackle alcohol harms in Scotland.


Briefing on Calling Time


Read our briefing about our Calling Time campaign to ban alcohol sponsorship in sports.

Alcohol sponsorship of football (November 2022)

SHAAP commissioned research from the University of Stirling Institute for Social Marketing and Health which investigates the nature of sponsorship relations for professional football teams across countries with varied restrictions on alcohol marketing.

  • Scotland had the second highest proportion of alcohol industry sponsors after Belgium, at 6.4% in Scotland compared to 2.6% across all the countries studied.
  • Moreover, of the 12 Scottish Premiership football teams, 6 have at least one alcohol industry main sponsor or partner.
  • Countries with statutory restrictions on alcohol marketing and sponsorship have comparatively less alcohol sponsorship in their top flight football clubs. 


Six nations (September 2021)

In September 2021, we launched ‘Alcohol marketing during the 2020 Six Nations Championships’, where researchers at the University of Stirling examined the prevalence of alcohol advertising in the 2020 Six Nations, how this differs across host countries in relation to their marketing policies and the implications of Ireland’s November 2021 marketing policy changes. Findings include:

  • There were 961 references observed in the Scotland vs. England broadcast, played at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh. This equated to, on average, 5.1 references per broadcast minute, or approximately once every 12 seconds.
  • References were least frequent in the match played in France, where the Évin Law prohibits alcohol sport sponsorship, with an average of one reference per broadcast minute.

Scottish Women's Football Survey (May 2022)

In May 2022, SHAAP conducted an online survey with players from Scottish Women's Football National Performance League. Designed to understand young players' relationship with alcohol and sport, the survey gathered over 100 responses from players aged 12 to 19 years old. Findings included:

  • 74% agreed with SWF's decision not to accept alcohol sponsorship.
  • Awareness of alcohol advertising on social media was higher for those who had tried alcohol (74% v 52% for non-drinkers).
  • Awareness of alcohol advertising at football grounds was higher for those playing at U18s/U19s level (56% v 38% for U14s/U16s).
  • Non-drinkers were more likely to be aware of footballer pictured with alcohol than drinkers (65% v 53%).

Time to blow the whistle on alcohol sport sponsorship (March 2020)

SHAAP and Alcohol Focus Scotland published ‘Time to blow the whistle on alcohol sports sponsorship’ which makes recommendations to the Scottish Government to protect people from the influence of alcohol and sports sponsorship. Findings include:

  • The Scottish Government should end alcohol sponsorship of professional sport.
  • Restrictions on alcohol sport sponsorship should be comprehensive and robust.
  • A rigorous and independent monitoring and enforcement programme should accompany sport sponsorship restrictions.
  • Sport sponsorship restrictions should form part of a broader strategy to address alcohol marketing.

The extent, nature, and frequency of alcohol sport sponsorship in professional football and rugby union in Scotland (January 2020)

In 2019, research was conducted by the Institute for Social Marketing and Health at Stirling University to support a report by Alcohol Focus Scotland and SHAAP. Findings include:

  • Overall, alcohol companies represented only 7% of the main sponsors or partners recorded in the audit, with support received from a diverse variety of other companies.
  • The majority of the teams audited (61%) had no sponsorship relations with alcohol companies.
  • Among the football teams, alcohol sponsorship appeared more prevalent within the Scottish Premier League (half of the teams had at least one alcohol sponsor) compared to the Scottish Championship (a third of the teams had at least one alcohol sponsor).

Foul Play (April 2017)

This research was carried out by researchers at the Institute for Social Marketing, University of Stirling and funded by the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS), Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP), and Alcohol Action Ireland. Findings include:

  • On average, there were more than 100 alcohol marketing references per broadcast in each country.
  • The average number of alcohol marketing references per minute was 0.69 in French broadcasts, 0.65 in the UK broadcasts, and 0.59 in Irish broadcasts. Most references appeared during the match. 
  • The most popular location and format was electronic pitch-side advertising. Almost all the marketing references were indirect (i.e. the brand was only identifiable from signifiers such as phrases from the brand slogan).

Realising our rights (June 2022)

In September 2020, Alcohol Focus Scotland reconstituted an international expert network on alcohol marketing (‘the Network’) to update its 2017 report on alcohol marketing and inform action by the Scottish Government. Findings include:

  • Exposure to alcohol marketing causes young people to start drinking earlier, to drink more if they are already drinking, and to drink at heavy or problematic levels.
  • People with (or at risk of) an alcohol problem are more likely to notice alcohol adverts and to find them appealing which can translate into increased alcohol use. People in recovery from an alcohol problem tell us that alcohol marketing is a risk to their recovery.
  • People want change: there is support for taking action to restrict marketing among the general public, people in recovery and children and young people.

Scottish Football Supporters Survey (December 2022)

The survey was conducted online and promoted through the Scottish Football Supporters Association and a variety of social media channels.

  • Awareness of alcohol advertising within football and beyond is high
    79% of individuals had been exposed to alcohol advertising or promotion through football within the last 3 months
  • There is a belief amongst fans that reducing or removing alcohol sponsorship could be a positive step
    Two-thirds of supporters feel that Scottish football’s reliance on alcohol industry sponsorship is a ‘bad thing’ (64%).
  • There is a significant group of supporters who want change
    46% of supporters believe that replacing alcohol sponsorship with non-alcoholic sponsorship would be a positive change. Only 13% believed this would be a negative change.
  • Children are in attendance of Scottish football matches
    Over a third of the sample had attended a match with children aged 18 and under in the last 12 months (36%).

WHO - SAFER Initiative (September 2018)

WHO, in collaboration with international partners, launched the SAFER initiative towards a world free from alcohol related harm in 2018. This brochure gives a short overview of the background for the initiative and outlines its aims, objectives, strategies and its five key interventions:


  • Strengthen restrictions on alcohol availability
  • Advance and enforce drink driving counter measures
  • Facilitate access to screening, brief interventions and treatment
  • Enforce bans or comprehensive restrictions on alcohol advertising, sponsorship, and promotion
  • Raise prices on alcohol through excise taxes and pricing policies.

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