Alcohol ad ban threat to events

Marlborough's economy could suffer a huge financial blow if major sporting events in the region are canned as a result of proposed bans on alcohol advertising.

Major events, such as the Forrest GrapeRide and Saint Clair Vineyard Half Marathon, attract thousands of visitors each year.

They inject thousands of dollars into Marlborough's economy, but that could all be lost if the Government adopts the 14 recommendations put forward by a ministerial forum in relation to alcohol advertising and sponsorship.

The recommendations include a ban on all alcohol sponsorship for sports, a ban on alcohol sponsorship for cultural and music events, where 10 per cent or more of guests are under the age of 18, and a ban on alcohol advertising in general, including social media, where 10 per cent or more of the audience are under 18. The purpose of the forum is to work out whether restrictions would reduce harmful use of alcohol.

Saint Clair Vineyard Half Marathon organiser Chris Shaw said he would be concerned for the future of the event if the proposed changes were adopted.

"It will limit our ability to promote the event … [and] the race itself would be in jeopardy."

The event would not happen without the financial support of Saint Clair, he said.

"And if we weren't allowed to give Saint Clair that acknowledgement [naming rights], they might not keep giving us money . . . though I wouldn't want to pre-empt that, but our sponsors connect to their audience through the event and if they can't do that, the essential reason for sponsorship is gone."

When people attend major sporting events, they want to enjoy not only the event, but everything the region had to offer, he said.

"The reason people are coming here is because it's a wine and food region and Marlborough is promoted on that.

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"I think, in some ways, the race reflects the good work Marlborough has done in promoting the region," Shaw said.

"For some people, it's an aspiration to compete in these major events in Marlborough."

The Saint Clair Vineyard Half Marathon was just one of the many events the ban would effect, he said.

Forrest GrapeRide organiser Pete Halligan agreed, saying without support from wineries in the region, major sporting events would be canned.

"Without that sponsorship, it [Forrest GrapeRide] wouldn't exist and most of the other events wouldn't either.

"The support the wine industry gives us is phenomenal."

Personally, Halligan believed the recommendations were "absolutely bizarre" and would have a huge impact on Marlborough, he said.

"Here we have a wonderful unique brand around wine and we could lose that.

"It would kill our industry."

Destination Marlborough general manager Tracy Johnston said the proposed bans would also have a direct impact on tourism.

"Events are a wonderful reason for visitors to come to Marlborough - they attract thousands of people to the region.

"We know the sporting events are a big driver and that visitors enjoy that experience," she said.

"So the concern would be if wine brands are not able to support the events, it would be up to the other businesses in town, whether they have the capacity to step up and fill the void."

Wineries help Destination Marlborough to market the region as a wine an food region, and without that, the Marlborough brand would be hard to promote, she said.

"At the moment, we have the good fortune that the Marlborough region is internationally recognised, and that's off the back of wine and food products."

 - The Marlborough Express

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