Ricard: drinks sponsorship ban would be 'misguided'
THE proposed ban on alcohol sponsorship will have no effect on drinking levels, and will only hurt sports groups that need backing from major companies, one of the most senior figures in the global drinks industry has claimed.
Alexandre Ricard, pictured, who will take over as chief executive of Pernod Ricard in 18 months' time, said the Irish Government's plan to end sponsorship and advertising for alcohol would be counterproductive in the long term.
Pernod Ricard is the second-biggest drinks company in the world, and as parent of Irish Distillers counts Jameson, Powers and Paddy whiskey among its numerous brands.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, Mr Ricard claimed the Government's plan was misguided and would fail in its primary objective of reducing drinking among young people.
"The French government has banned alcohol sponsorship of sport for years, and consumption levels are the same as they were before the ban was brought in," he said.
"We fully back responsible drinking but education and awareness are by far the best ways to help people drink less, not proscription.
"Look at Italy – there are no restrictions there. Yet the level of consumption per capita has fallen below France in recent years.
"Now in Ireland spirits consumption has dropped back in recent years and is right in line with the European average," Mr Ricard claimed.
"A ban will just hurt teams and groups that rely on backing to survive and thrive".
Mr Ricard is a former head of Irish Distillers, so is very familiar with the Irish market. While he admitted the Irish drinks industry was in a "structural decline", he said there were opportunities for the Irish whiskies overseas. Jameson is already the second-biggest driver of Pernod Ricard's profits, selling 4.3 million cases last year.
"Powers has been re-launched in the US over the last few months at a pretty premium price point. It is now more expensive than Jameson and the new Powers has been rebottled. It is doubling its size, albeit from a small base," he said.
Mr Ricard, currently chief operating officer of Pernod Ricard, said there would be "some innovation" around Paddy this year. He has already hinted there may be flavours added to the whiskey, such as spicing.
Irish Distillers' other whiskies, such as Red Breast, were "performing extremely well", he added.
The repricing of Powers is part of a larger move to "premiumise" Irish whiskey by Pernod Ricard. Only 15 years ago, Irish whiskey sold at a 20pc discount to Scotch. Now it is 20pc more.