SYDNEY: Alcohol brands in Australia have defended themselves against accusations they are exploiting a loophole in advertising regulations by using sponsorship of live sports to promote their brands on television before an 8.30pm watershed.

The Australian Greens also claimed that the links between alcohol brands and sports such as cricket and football were fuelling a "dangerous and unhealthy" culture of drinking. The comments mark a renewed attack on alcohol advertising, following a Salvation Army survey last year that said two thirds of people believed alcohol sponsorship should be phased out of sport.

Lion, whose brands include Tooheys and XXXX, responded that alcohol misuse was a "complex cultural issue" that could not be reduced to a simplistic ban on advertising or sponsorship. A spokesman further pointed out that while brewers continued to advertise their brands the overall beer market was in decline, so the impact of such promotions was actually aimed at brand preference.

And Jeremy Griffith, head of corporate affairs at Carlton United Breweries, told AdNews that not only were people drinking less but that underage drinking had also declined.

"It's what I call the inconvenient truth for the health lobby because the numbers just don't match their argument," he said, adding that the industry was well managed and acted responsibly.

He explained the thinking behind CUB brands sponsoring certain sports, including cricket, Australian football and rugby league: the typical viewer of these sports were adult males, the beer brands' "heartland demographic". Griffith said CUB had no involvement in sports where there is more participation from young people, such as netball, swimming or athletics.

"The biggest influencer [for children] is not a logo on a football shirt, but the behaviour of their parents," he added. "That's why education is critical."

His comments were echoed by Ailish Hanley, head of corporate relations at Diageo. "The most effective way of making sure you target adult audiences is by making sure you look at the audience demographics," she said.

And she added that any ban on alcohol sponsorship of sporting events would leave a hole that would have to be filled by someone else.

"Any investment that goes into sports codes has a benefit to the wider community so that's a factor that needs to be considered," she noted.

Data sourced from Ad News; additional content by Warc staff