Kicking the Habit: Historicising 'Addictive' Sport Sponsorship in Britain, 1965-2025

Year of award: 2023


  • Prof Anna Greenwood

    University of Nottingham, United Kingdom

  • Dr Alex Mold

    London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, United Kingdom

  • Prof Heather Wardle

    University of Glasgow, United Kingdom

Project summary

Sports sponsorship by the addictive industries of tobacco, alcohol, and gambling pressurises health services and damages lives. While tobacco sponsorship is no longer legal, sports fans are nevertheless still routinely exposed to sponsorship by the alcohol and gambling industries. The health dangers of this involvement are pressing. Marketing is shown to directly impact the behaviours of those vulnerable to health harms, prompting unplanned betting in nine out of ten people experiencing gambling problems. Similar impacts have been recorded for tobacco and alcohol use. This important project will be the first to systematically map and analyse professional sport sponsorship from a historical perspective. As such, it works towards Wellcome's strategic goals by uncovering historical precedents as a means to mobilise better health outcomes. Stimulated by the 2021-22 UK governmental gambling review (that includes an examination of sponsorship), three leading experts within history and the social sciences analyse the tobacco, alcohol, and gambling industries' relationships with five professional sports (football, rugby, cricket, formula one, tennis). From the first sports sponsorship deals of the mid-1960s to 2025, we scrutinise the involvement of sport and industry in sponsorship and interrogate what the production of health-harming behaviours means for sport, industry, and the interested public.