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24 July 2019

The Drinkaware name is a familiar presence in racing through its racecourse campaigns to encourage responsible drinking. Leading the work with the Racecourse Association to develop the familiar Pace Yourself initiative and instigating training for front line racecourse staff, Chris Grayson talks about the ambitions of the alcohol education charity.

Racing and alcohol can be enjoyed together

In this my first-ever blog, I am proud to say that I work for Drinkaware, the alcohol education charity aimed at helping people make better choices about their drinking. We are not, as some people may think, the fun police!

We understand that people like to drink, and most people do this moderately. In fact, our strategy is all about working in partnership to become one of the top UK charities in promoting healthier lifestyles and wellbeing. We would like to see alcohol being enjoyed as part of a balanced healthy lifestyle.

I’ve been at Drinkaware for almost six years and worked closely with Caroline, Paul and the team at the RCA since they became the first sport’s Governing Body to fund Drinkaware. Through our ongoing partnership, we have seen some fantastic support of the ‘Pace Yourself’ activity throughout racecourses aimed at promoting a responsible drinking culture within the sport. This awareness activity has been supplemented by Drinkaware providing some of our alcohol vulnerability training to key personnel at racecourses. This upskills staff to have a greater understanding of the effects of alcohol; how to spot people who are vulnerable and what to do/ not to do in certain situations. This all contributes to providing a safer environment and an enhanced customer experience when enjoying a day at the races.

Pace yourself graphic

Sport the perfect gateway to starting conversations on lifestyle

Having had an interest in sport from an early age, I know full well the positive benefits it can provide to communities. Sport helped me through some difficult times and transcends generations and backgrounds – who doesn’t have a ‘where were you moment’ from their favourite sport?

The power of sport provides an unrivalled platform from where to amplify key messages, engage with consumers and tell a story. At Drinkaware, we are at the very early stages of telling our own story. We work to demonstrate the impact of sport in driving messages to hard to reach communities, as we look to nudge positive behaviour change amongst those drinking at harmful levels.

An example is Drinkaware’s very successful partnership with Derby County Football Club around  our ‘Drink Free Days’ campaign – an activity to help people understand that having regular days off drinking alcohol in the week will have a positive impact on their short and long-term health. One of the main components of our partnership is the sponsorship of Derby’s Walking Football programme – a slower-paced version of the beautiful game. The core demographic participating in this activity is men aged 45-64, which is a perfect fit for our flagship campaign. We are led by evidence and we know that this is one of the primary audiences drinking well above the low risk guidelines.

Their walking football programme provides Drinkaware with a captive audience that has a loyalty and passion when it comes to their football club. That’s when the conversations can start about key health messages from the football club’s partners. The initial successes have been overwhelmingly positive – through data collection and reviews at key stages over a 12-month programme, we saw 98% of participants classified as ‘low risk’ compared with 45% at the start of the programme.

Racing’s turn to walk the walk

The next chapter of this story is a lot closer to home for horseracing and pays a particular focus to Scotland. In June, Drinkaware worked in partnership with the RCA and Scottish Racing to pilot an activity at Ayr Racecourse. The premise is simple – to use the power of racing and football to reach and engage people in local communities to encourage and promote healthy lifestyles.

The pilot brought together some willing volunteers to participate and provide feedback for future development. Those involved were treated to a guided tour of Ayr Racecourse before taking to the field for a walking football tournament. After showing off their footballing talents, all participants were encouraged to come for some tea, coffee and shortbread.

Ayr Walking Football

It is during this time of simple socializing and sporting banter where participants are encouraged to talk about their drinking and receive non-judgmental advice about making better choices. Often people are surprised at how much alcohol they consume compared to others, or the reasons as to why people drink at the levels they do. Drinkaware spends around 10-12% of its income on research and insights so that we can best placed to really understand our consumers and provide them with tools and resources to help them make informed choices about their drinking.

The pilot has provided plenty of food for thought regarding how this moves forwards, and the planned future roll out. We are very appreciative of the continued support of the RCA and the racecourses who continue to promote alcohol responsibility. It is my firm belief that by working collaboratively, we can continue telling a positive story about the power of sport helping communities to make better choices about their drinking.

And for anyone left in any doubt – Drinkaware is NOT anti-alcohol, just anti-alcohol harm; so why don’t you try incorporating some more Drink Free Days into your week and see the benefits!

Drink free days graphic
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