We are only now beginning to understand the extent to which children are exposed to harmful advertising including alcohol, tobacco and fast food. Recent studies have shown that children are exposed to alcohol marketing on average 4.5 times a day. For Māori and Pacific Children this number is five and three times higher, respectively, than that of NZ European children. Unsurprisingly, it is through sports that exposure to alcohol advertising remains high and Hāpai Te Hauora has similar concerns around gambling marketing.
Haylee Koroi, Māori Public Health Advisor at Hāpai says "The impact of childhood exposure to gambling marketing is still largely unknown. If evidence shows that exposure to harmful product marketing increases product uptake, then I have no doubt that the frequency of gambling marketing in the sporting sector is having a negative effect on whānau."
Gambling marketing through sponsorship and sports betting has become an accepted part of the sporting landscape in New Zealand. This is becoming increasingly obvious with the elimination of tobacco product marketing from sports.
Softball New Zealand recently hosted the TAB Challenge Cup for International Men's Softball earlier this month, whilst championing TAB as their major sponsor. Other major sporting codes including New Zealand tennis, basketball, rugby, and netball are also heavily funded by the TAB.
In 2017 reports from the Ministry of Health found that "Gambling causes more than twice the amount of harm than chronic conditions such as osteoarthritis (2.1x) and diabetes (2.5x), and three times the amount of harm from drug use disorders."
Gambling is not a harmless pastime. Māori are 8 times more likely to experience gambling harm than the general population. Haylee Koroi comments that "If sporting codes continue to ignore and deny the inequitable distribution of harm to whānau Māori, they are essentially saying that the guaranteed harm to whānau Māori is a sacrifice they’re willing to make to protect their profits"
While Hāpai acknowledges the vital role that sports play in improving the health and wellbeing of New Zealand communities, Selah Hart, Chief Operations Manager at Hāpai says "Just because sporting codes promote good physical health, doesn't excuse them from taking social responsibility for the messages they are sending, especially to our young people." Sport clubs are a space of significant influence for children and young people. If sporting clubs are able to commit to more balanced and informed public health messaging they will not only be driving improved overall sports performance but will be guiding individuals and whānau to healthy lives beyond the sports field.