Today the I-95 SportsBiz team wanted to take the time to examine a controversial topic in the sports business world. While we think everything about sports are great, there are some issues out there both in the open and hidden. Here is one that we have been talking about here at I-95 and has been an age old debate. Please weigh in yourself in the comment section below.
Should professional sports leagues have liquor sponsors?
This is such an interesting debate, but I think that it all seems a bit hypocritical. Beer sponsors are among the top spenders with any major North American sports franchise. As the fan experience becomes more and more relevant and teams start to care more, teams have added beverages other than beer to their repertoire. Hard liquor (and wine) are among those other adult beverages that have been added. I think it’s time for teams to stop beating around the bush and just acknowledge that they do have deals with these types of companies. Liquor companies have big bucks to spend, which will help increase team revenues through competition in higher sponsorship brackets and more visibility. There are plenty of crafty ways for liquor companies to market through sports teams (see beer companies and DD campaigns). I think it’s time to acknowledge liquors presence. This isn’t the Atlantic City boardwalk in Boardwalk Empire during prohibition. This is big time North American sports. They already sell and market beer. They sell hard liquor, so why not capitalize on liquor’s interest in sports? This is not a moral issue. Alcohol is acceptable in social environments in America. There is no reason to allow some alcohol and not other kinds. Let’s make this one right.
When fans tune into an NFL game, they expect beer advertising on TV. When fans go out to the ballpark to watch their favorite MLB team, they expect alcohol signage plastered on the outfield fence. This can be said for all of the major sports in our country. Is there something wrong with a culture of alcohol mixing with professional sport leagues? I don’t think so. The morality behind sport leagues being sponsored by liquor companies is an easy decision.... in my opinion. If teams and leagues are concerned about the message they are sending to the youth by advertising products containing alcohol, they should stop selling alcoholic beverages at the games. Teams and leagues generate significant revenue from the sale of alcohol at games and through advertising with alcohol companies. I see nothing wrong with selling alcohol at games nor do I see anything wrong with liquor companies sponsoring leagues and teams. I have heard debates that beer should be allowed but hard alcohol sponsorship should not be allowed. I really do not understand this argument. If leagues are showing that they condone the use of alcohol, then they should stick to their stance. American’s enjoy a drink at a game, leagues enjoy big sponsorship deals with liquor companies. Let them have what they want.
To be clear, yes, professional sports leagues should have liquor sponsors…big time liquor sponsors. As far as I’m concerned, “Official Liquor of…” is a very high-potential official sponsor category that has remained untapped for too long. The morality argument would make sense to me…if it wasn’t so hypocritical. If leagues didn’t have beer sponsors, and didn’t depend on alcohol sales as one of the highest revenue generating concessions, then I could understand why liquor would also be avoided. But that’s simply not the case. Beer sponsors are the largest spenders of sponsorship dollars in sports, and the most recognizable (if you didn’t see an ad for beer during a sporting event, that would be a miracle). So why is the idea of a liquor sponsor so taboo? There’s big money there, and alcohol is socially acceptable…I don’t think leagues would receive as much backlash as people might expect. If liquor sponsors indeed would be so detrimental to a brand, then highly marketable public figures wouldn’t get involved with such products either; celebrities try to protect their images just as much as sport franchises (i.e. Diddy and Ciroc Vodka or Sammy Hagar and Cabo Wabo Tequila or Dan Aykroyd and Crystal Head Vodka…they’re all heading straight to the bank with profits too). I think the leagues would be remissed if they didn’t jump on the liquor sponsor bandwagon. I don’t think they have any justifiable reason to avoid such corporate relationships. If they’re only reason is “morality”, they’re not fooling anyone...alcohol is already synonymous with sports.