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Alcohol branding during rugby union matches in Ireland after commencement of Sect. 15 from the Public Health (Alcohol) Act: a frequency analysis of highlights from the European Rugby Champions Cup and Six Nations Championship.

BACKGROUND: Under Sect. 15 of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018, Ireland has banned alcohol advertising in or on the sports area during a sports event, except for branded clothing. The restrictions commenced on 12th November 2021, but concerns have been raised that alcohol branding continues to feature in the now-prohibited sporting area.

AIM: To examine the frequency and nature of alcohol brand references in or on the sporting area during two rugby union tournaments played in Ireland after Sect. 15 had commenced.

METHODS: A frequency analysis recorded visual references to alcohol brands in or on the sporting area (lasting ≥ 1 s) during highlights of fixtures played in Ireland during the 2021/2022 European Rugby Champions Cup (n = 11 matches; 'ERCC') and 2022 Six Nations Championship (n = 3 matches). Highlights were obtained from the official YouTube channels of each tournament.

RESULTS: Across both tournaments, 481 alcohol brand references were observed in or on the sporting area (ERCC = 420; Six Nations = 61). Most references were advertising for zero-alcohol variants (ERCC = 77.1%; Six Nations = 83.6%) but using similar brand iconography as their 'regular-strength' counterparts (e.g. brand names and logos). The remaining references were classified as alibi marketing for 'regular-strength' alcohol products (ERCC = 22.9%; Six Nations = 16.4%), as alcohol brand logos were presented without explicit reference to a zero-alcohol variant.

CONCLUSIONS: Alcohol branding continued to feature in or on the sporting area after the commencement of Sect. 15 of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act. Clarification is needed over whether the promotion of zero-alcohol products and alibi marketing is compatible with Sect. 15 of the Act.

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