Is the alcohol industry targeting kids via their superstars?
OPINION: Mister 8 came home from school recently, grinning, because he got a Black Caps poster.
He pulled it out of his bag and this is what I saw (pictured above).
Do you see it?
Long before any interpretation of the poster promoting cricket, I saw alcohol bottles.
And then I read the slogan: "It all starts here".
I asked my Facebook friends what they saw, and one said "I saw alcohol bottles".
Another friend asked a room full of adults. They all thought it was an alcohol campaign.
Does it all start here for the alcohol industry? With primary school kids of five to 11 years of age?
I was disturbed by the poster intended for my eight year old because the message I received was that our national sports team and his sporting heroes, the Black Caps, were associated with alcohol.
The wood-grain of the bats, the elegantly wrapped handles, the striking composition, the colours as well as the lighting all gave off an impressive and sophisticated look.
The reasonable placement for such a poster would have been on his bedroom wall where he would pass it each night before he went to sleep and each morning when he woke up. No battery, electricity or charger required.
Are the Black Caps a vehicle to circumvent the Law Commission's regulations regarding alcohol marketing to children?
Sports commentator Richard Bock looked at this issue in the Sunday Star Times in May 2010, commending the Law Commission's recommendations to ban alcohol sponsorship.
"It would at least put an end to one of the seediest aspects of our community; the use of sport to promote boozing to kids," he wrote.
That was six years ago.
Horiana Henderson's son came home from school with this poster.
In the Law Commission's Issues Paper 15, July 2009, it discusses the principles which govern the advertising of liquor and states it should not target minors, use or refer to identifiable heroes or heroines of the young.
But without a brand, or any clear indicator the poster is promoting alcohol, can anyone be held liable?
If a message is clearly received by multiple people, like my Facebook friends, can a complaint be laid and if so against whom?
The Law Commission acknowledged the alcohol industry spends millions of dollars in New Zealand employing "highly creative and all pervasive use[s] of popular culture to build connections between personal identity and brands," in the interests of profit. Profits which are made by "inviting" consumers into the brand.
Psychologist Nigel Latta spoke on his television programme about the power of the alcohol industry, claiming the industry's motives are not about the public good.
An internet search quickly reveals data showing that alcohol does negatively impact our society.
Earlier this year rugby league legend Graham Lowe was appointed to chair a forum charged with discussing alcohol advertising and sponsorship and its impact on society.
Lowe told Stuff what he found most startling during the review was evidence of the "brainwashing" effect exposure to alcohol advertising and sponsorship in sport had on children.
"We've got to keep in mind ... sporting people are the heroes of the young and if you want to get a message across to the kids, you do it via the heroes...and that's what's happening with alcohol. They will say they're not targeting kids, and that's fair enough, but the kids pick it up."
"They don't miss anything", Lowe said.
"They certainly don't miss the subtle sometimes and also prominent alcohol advertising that we see associated with sport."
"Is it right to subject kids to alcohol advertising and sponsorship? So you decide, is it right or wrong? I personally think it's wrong."
The forum submitted their recommendations to Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne in October 2014, but in July 2016 Lowe said: "the silence is deafening."
"We were there to see if we thought there was an issue and there is an issue."
But Lowe's forum and my parental powers to impact an industry with so many resources and as entrenched within our country's national identity is disproportionate.
What is needed now is for the Government to be brave and bold, and venturing into unpopular waters with the alcohol industry.
Perhaps they need to ask, is the alcohol industry playing by the rules?
Are they targeting kids via sporting heroes in the name of profit? And if so, is it right or is it wrong?
- Stuff Nation