Home > Alcohol marketing during the 2020 Six Nations Championship: a frequency analysis.

Doyle, Anne (2022) Alcohol marketing during the 2020 Six Nations Championship: a frequency analysis. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 80, Winter 2022, p. 19.

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November 2021 saw the implementation of Section 15 of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018, which prohibits alcohol advertising in or on a sporting area in Ireland. This component of the Act along with other measures yet to commence, including content of advertising and a broadcast watershed, are intended to limit the exposure of alcohol marketing to children and young people in order to reduce the promotion of alcohol. This forms part of Ireland’s commitment to reduce overall alcohol use and to protect children from alcohol marketing.

Study objectives

To highlight the extent of alcohol marketing during popular sporting events prior to the implementation of Section 15, Alcohol Action Ireland in partnership with the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) in London and the Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP) have published a report examining the frequency and nature of alcohol marketing (verbal and visual references to alcohol) during televised broadcasts of the 2020 Six Nations Championship, an international rugby union tournament.1 The tournament is currently broadcast in more than 180 countries worldwide, reaching a combined audience of over 125 million.

The authors sought to examine how Section 15 of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018 might influence alcohol marketing practice during televised sport and also to examine how France’s Évin Law impacts on the frequency and nature of marketing during the tournament. The Évin Law prohibits alcohol advertising in France in sporting events since 1991. In the United Kingdom (UK), there is no legislative restrictions on alcohol sport sponsorship and activities are self-regulated by the alcohol industry instead.


Content analysis of four matches was undertaken. These involved two played in Ireland (vs Scotland and vs Wales); one in Scotland (UK) (vs England); and one in France (vs England).


The authors found that in the match played in the UK, alcohol marketing was most frequent, with an average of five alcohol references per broadcast minute (961 alcohol references or one every 12 seconds). The two matches played in Ireland closely followed, with an average of four alcohol references per minute (754 [vs Wales] and 690 [vs Scotland] or one alcohol reference every 16 seconds and every 15 seconds, respectively), while in France, there was one alcohol reference every minute (193 alcohol references). There were no age restriction warnings in any of the broadcasts and a minority had clearly visible, responsible drinking messages.

The majority of alcohol references were observed within the sporting area, during game time and in high-profile locations, such as static logos on the pitch and logos on the ball and goalposts. In Ireland and Scotland, alcohol references contained explicit branding; however, in France, ‘alibi’ marketing was used in order to adhere to the Évin Law. Examples of this are using the word ‘Greatness’ as opposed to the brand name Guinness in the familiar fonts and colours.


The findings suggest that for Ireland, implementation of Section 15 has the potential to reduce alcohol marketing during sporting events. It prohibits some frequently used marketing activities, for example, the highly visible static logo in the middle of the pitch that was commonly shown. However, the report also indicates that alcohol marketing already appears in a variety of other locations that are not restricted by Section 15 controls, for example, pitch-side advertising and advertising placed around the stadium structure. These places, which fall outside the sporting area stipulated by Section 15 of the Act, allow for alcohol advertising to be displayed in prominent areas, meaning that alcohol marketing is still very visible during sporting events.

The results also highlight how the Évin Law in France was evaded through the use of alibi marketing. Questions therefore remain over the monitoring and enforcement of the French law, a finding which has implications for the changing context in Ireland and any consideration of controls in the UK. For policymakers and regulators in Ireland overseeing the restrictions, the report highlights important matters, specifically whether alibi marketing will also be restricted under the wording of the legislation and what arrangements are in place to monitor and enforce the restrictions. 

1 Purves R and Critchlow N (2021) Alcohol marketing during the 2020 Six Nations Championship: a frequency analysis. Stirling: Institute for Social Marketing and Health. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/34911/

Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, International, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
Intervention Type
Issue Title
Issue 80, Winter 2022
March 2022
Page Range
p. 19
Health Research Board
Issue 80, Winter 2022

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