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DF Concerts chief says that alcohol sponsorship ban in Scotland would be “nothing short of disastrous” for the country’s live sector

By | Published on Tuesday 14 February 2023

Live music

The boss of Scottish live music firm DF Concerts has told the country’s government that any ban on alcohol brands sponsoring shows and festivals would be “nothing short of disastrous for Scotland’s live music industry”.

The Scottish government began a consultation on restricting alcohol advertising and promotion last year, with country’s Minister For Public Health, Women’s Health And Sport, Maree Todd, noting at the time that “alcohol-related harm is one of the most pressing public health challenges that we face in Scotland”.

She then added: “Restricting alcohol marketing is identified as one of the World Health Organisation’s three ‘best buys’, the most cost-effective measures that WHO recommends to prevent and reduce alcohol-related harm. Many our European neighbours have already taken action to do this including Ireland, France and Norway. This consultation sets out a potential approach for Scotland”.

The consultation is considering all kinds of alcohol marketing, including the sponsorship deals alcohol brands often negotiate with the sports and wider entertainment sector. And restricting such deals is one of the things being considered.

Of course, plenty of venues, shows and festivals rely on marketing partnerships with brands to ensure that their operations are commercially viable, and alcohol brands have traditionally been key targets for live music companies seeking such partnerships.

Not least because most people drink alcohol when watching live music, so for the brands, their products can be available and on sale at the venues, shows or festivals that they are sponsoring.

DF Concerts – a Live Nation subsidiary – is probably still best known as the promoter of the T In The Park festival that ran from 1994 to 2016. The ‘T’ – of course – stood for Tennents, the lager brand that sponsored the festival.

Meanwhile, DF’s current festivals TRNSMT and Summer Sessions – while not having alcohol brands in their names – have had brand support from the likes of Bacardi and Carlsberg.

According to Glasgow Live, DF CEO Geoff Ellis has written to Todd about the proposed restrictions on alcohol sponsorship, stating: “This letter is not intended to ignore or try to dismiss the fact that there are problem drinkers in Scotland. Rather, it is to implore the Scottish government not to pursue the misguided proposal to ban all forms of alcohol marketing and sponsorship”.

“It is not advertising and sponsorship that are the cause of the problem”, his letter goes on. “Indeed, the fortified wine drink most anecdotally associated with violence and underage drinking is a brand that does not advertise at all. The root causes of addiction problems are what the government should be focusing on, such as poverty and other societal factors, as well as improving support services for those affected”.

Outlining the impact an alcohol sponsorship ban could have on live music in Scotland, he then says: “A proposed restriction on alcohol sponsorship and advertising will be nothing short of disastrous for Scotland’s live music industry. It will set Scotland back irreparably in cultural, social and economic terms, especially in relation to our UK neighbours and the rest of Europe”.

“Many live music venues will be forced to close and those that remain will need to increase ticket prices considerably, hurting Scottish music fans disproportionately compared to those elsewhere in the UK”, he adds. “Without doubt, as festivals and venues disappear, Scottish audiences will flock to England and the country will lose the benefit of attracting fans from the rest of the UK and further afield, as it will have no music festivals of any note”.

Responding to Ellis’s letter, a spokesperson for the Scottish government told reporters: “The consultation is open until 9 Mar and no decisions have been taken. All views and responses will be given serious and thorough consideration”.

“Reducing the exposure of children to alcohol promotion is a priority”, the spokesperson added. “There’s clear evidence which shows adverts glamorising drinking can encourage young people to drink alcohol and can also have a detrimental impact on those in recovery from problem alcohol use”.