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Proposed Restrictions on Alcohol Marketing Detrimental To Development of Sport & Music In SA

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Proposed Restrictions on Alcohol Marketing Detrimental To Development of Sport & Music In SA

The abuse of alcohol is a major social issue in South Africa; road accident statistics, the incidence of domestic violence, and most shockingly, the prevalence of foetal alcohol syndrome confirms this. The cost to the nation is unquestioningly vast. It’s not difficult to understand why the Government believes that the restriction and even prohibition of marketing of alcoholic beverages will provide the solution. But the question that needs to be considered is - will it really achieve this goal when the problem is systemic and rooted in societal challenges. The challenges that are at the very core of South Africa’s current inability to install societal values that will truly result in a better life for all.

Looking at this from a different perspective, one must ask if serious consideration has been given to the broader economic and societal consequences of the proposed ban. In a considered response to the approval of the Draft bill by Cabinet in Sept 2013, Sports and Recreation Director-General Alec Moemi, expressed great concern at the impact of such a bill on Sport and referred to an anticipated negative impact on the economy of R 7.4 billion per annum.

Not only do alcohol brands enable, through sponsorship, the hosting of major sporting events (with a spend of R 1.8 billion per annum they are by far the biggest sponsorship product category), they also effectively underwrite the sports development and sustainability of what is currently a dynamic local music scene.
Protagonists will undoubtedly point to the similar situation faced by tobacco brands in the 1990’s and evidently life went on. It did in what were relatively vibrant economic times; mobile phones and financial services simply moved into the vacuum created by the departure of tobacco.

But the world in 2014 is a very different place economically and from a societal perspective; and there is no obvious sponsorship successor - other than perhaps online gambling which is not as yet legal in South Africa. Gambling brands are possibly at as great a risk as alcohol brands.

In more difficult economic times, there are now major sponsorship gaps to be filled - not just for the big sporting codes but the secondary ones. Not just the national and high profile teams, but the development initiatives. Not just the established musicians but the ones who need the break. But one can’t but help question whether it’s any worse that an event is sponsored by leading alcoholic brands, or any number of global gaming brands?

The impact of a ban on promotion can also be felt on competitiveness. One could argue that such a ban is in fact anti-competitive. It effectively locks in market share as at that point in time, because marketers are only able to leverage the other three elements of the marketing mix (product, price, and place) moving forward.
Another perspective is whether a ban on marketing and communication should not be escalated into a total ban on the category. In the case of alcohol there is a significant precedent in terms of prohibition in the US during the Great Depression. The rise of liquor lords and gangsters is surely something that no thinking person would ever want to contemplate in a country that is already subject to the shocking power of Drug lords and corruption?

When the tobacco advertising and promotion was effectively banned in 2000 following the passing into law of The Tobacco Products Control Act 83 of 1993, there followed the most fascinating development of ‘dark marketing’. What emerged, was elements of the cigarette brands’ design being used to communicate secretive gatherings to young people. Lucky Strike was perhaps the best exponent of this technique which turned cigarette brands into underworld cults. This creates ‘street cred’ for the brand and product amongst the vulnerable youth – not something that responsible marketers should be striving to achieve.

Over and above the moral arguments for restricting and banning alcohol promotion, its potential effectiveness should also be considered. A better approach would be to allow advertising and communication to continue with restrictions on time and media choice. Coupled with this a levy of an equivalent spend could be added to the bottom line and allocated to a youth-focussed alcohol abuse educational campaign. This would allow the dangers of alcohol abuse to be creatively communicated. A simple ban on advertising does not address the corrective need, and corporates, and society together with Government, must cohesively find solutions to address this major area of concern.

Let it not be misinterpreted that this is a case for alcohol promotion specifically; rather it is a case for freedom of expression and commercial activity. If a product is available to be merchandised and sold then its promotion should not be banned. Developing more imaginative ways of regulating codes of practice is at the heart of the issue, as is critical funding of product categories which require greater societal guidance.


Tobacco was always seen to be the thin edge of the wedge but, because of the proven health dangers caused not just by abuse, but by use and even passive use, it was deemed socially acceptable to introduce a ban. Alcohol is the next target and not without reason - abuse is a major problem - but when consumed within reason it’s not an issue. The same solution doesn’t seem appropriate.

Looking forward one has to wonder what’s going to be ‘controlled’ or banned next? Carbonated soft drinks, fast food, chocolate? As an increasingly obese and sedentary society, should advertising and marketing be held responsible and blamed. Perhaps the individual should learn to take responsibility for their health and that of their loved ones rather than apportioning blame. One must wonder what will happen if research can conclusively confirm that using mobile phones does indeed have a negative effect on health. Mobile phones have liberated a continent - but at what cost?

There must be a better way of managing this scenario - one that enables normal commercial activities to continue, sponsorship to continue, and ensures effective ongoing education and awareness around the over use and abuse of various product types. South Africans must to take responsibility for their own lives.

Koo Govender

Koo Govender

Koo Govender is the VWV Group’s first female CEO in its 30-year history. Formerly the Corporate Marketing and Communications Director at M-Net, Govender took over the reins at VWV Group in September 2013.


Koo’s combination of business and marketing acumen coupled with her experience with high profile events and stakeholder relationship management is unrivalled. At a time when VWV Group expands into new markets and launches new platforms like those offered by VWV Massive - the division that uses music and entertainment properties and platforms to achieve client brand objectives - she brings a unique perspective and has all the right credentials to lead a strong organisation like VWV Group.


Govender, who has worked at the MultiChoice Group for 22 years, developed a real sensitivity to different markets during her tenure, and has an unqualified depth of understanding when it comes to holisitic marketing and consumer market segmentation.


Govender is a passionate and proven marketer with an outstanding record of accomplishment. During her career she has won various Loeries and Promax Awards for on-air promos for the Group and was the first Chairwoman of Promax SA, the world’s premier body for promotion and marketing professionals working in electronic and broadcasting media. She has been a semi-finalist for the Most Influential Woman in 2010: Media category – CEO Magazine; Finalist for 2012 Most Influential Women in Business and Government Awards – CEO Magazine; and is a regular judge for awards likes the Shoprite Checkers Women of the Year and CEO Magazine Women of the Year.


A spiritual person, Govender’s life is directed by her philosophy that “life is not only about success but about significance and living your true potential”. Married and a mother of two, she has travelled extensively, has performed many motivational and guest speaker engagements on Women Empowerment and Mentorship, is a golf enthusiast and enjoys interior decorating.

Website: www.vwv.com

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