That’s according to a study of five televised sporting events during the 2014-15 summer, which showed that audiences for rugby league, tennis, football and cricket would see between 1.6 and 3.8 examples of alcohol marketing every 60 seconds.
Alcohol brands were visible between 42 and 777 times across the games examined. For three out of the five events alcohol brands were visible for almost half the game.
Those watching the entire Cricket World Cup were exposed to alcohol brands 519 times, while viewers of the Australian Open were exposed 777 times.
The study authors said that given the association between alcohol marketing and alcohol-related harm, "there is an urgent need for regulation that addresses alcohol marketing through sport”.
“New Zealanders, including children, were exposed to up to 200 ads per hour they watched televised sport, and people watching football and tennis saw alcohol ads for almost half of each game,” said Louise Signal, an associate professor in public health at the University of Otago, Wellington.
“Sport sponsorship bypasses traditional marketing and gets around the current advertising codes. Children see their sporting heroes linked with alcohol. In New Zealand we have already agreed that alcohol should not be marketed to children by traditional marketing. Why should we allow it with sports sponsorship?”
The government has been reluctant to address calls for a ban on advertising, recommended by a 2014 ministerial forum on alcohol promotions, according to one public health professor.
Sally Cresswell, director of social and health outcomes research at Massey University, said there had been a “deafening silence” in response to the forum’s report.
She said ex-Rugby League coach Graham Lowe, who chaired the forum, had been “deeply saddened” by a lack of government support for its recommendation.
The group also advised that advertising or sponsorship for alcohol should be stripped from all sporting events, stadiums, teams and television slots of any booze advertising or sponsorship.
Prof. Cresswell said the Wellington research into alcohol sponsorship was “timely” in a country that is “both strongly engaged with sport and suffers from considerable alcohol-related harm”.
In an editorial accompanying the research, published in the New Zealand Medical Journal, commentators wrote that growing up with ubiquitous alcohol advertising and sponsorship could lead children to assume that drinking alcohol was "part of being a good New Zealander".
Robert Brewer, chief executive of lobby group Spirits, has dismissed the study, saying that the official figure for harmful drinking among younger drinkers has been coming down for some time.
“Young people are choosing to drink less, to start drinking later in life and not to binge drink—something which the study has chosen to ignore,” he said.
“And, overall, the amount being drunk continues to fall in New Zealand, so to say that exposure to alcohol brands at sporting events is somehow increasing harm is simply not true.”
He added that figures show that 80% of the drinking public drink socially and responsibly.
New Zealand Rugby has said its position on alcohol sponsorship has not changed since the 2014 forum and it would fight off attempts to limit advertising.