Dry July’s partnership with liquor retailer a ‘cynical marketing exercise’

The Dry July Foundation has raised more than $37 million since its launch in 2008, but a recent decision to partner with liquor store chain BWS has brought criticism over its purpose and reputation.

The Woolworths Limited retailer has partnered with the charity to promote non-alcoholic beers, ciders, and spirits, a statement released by BWS on June 18 reads.

“BWS teaming up with Dry July might seem like an unlikely partnership, but it’s one we have no doubt will help increase awareness of what we do, and raise even more important funds for cancer patients and their families and carers,” Brett Macdonald, Dry July Foundation CEO and Co-Founder said.

LOGO: Woolworths Limited

“BWS have shown a real commitment to the cause with team members going dry during July and supporting customers taking part to stick to their no alcohol commitment.” 

The retailer will encourage all of its team members to signup and join TEAM BWS, with the company aiming to be the largest corporate fundraising team to date for Dry July.

BWS will also advertise across major cities to encourage registrations to the challenge, place coin boxes in stores, take donations at registers and promote non-alcoholic beverages.

The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) – an independent, not-for-profit organisation working to stop the harm caused by alcohol – has called for the partnership to be terminated immediately, with Chief Executive Michael Thorn warning of its danger.

“It is inappropriate to have one group that sells cancer-causing alcoholic beverages 365 days a year partnering with the other group that fund raises to support the victims of alcohol harm,” Mr Thorn said. 

“To be raising money to help people suffering cancer in a way that causes more cancer cases in the future is completely futile.

“Each year, more than 3200 Australians develop alcohol-attributable cancer.

“Alcohol is a class 1 carcinogen. The alcohol in one bottle of wine has the equivalent cancer risk of smoking five cigarettes for men and 10 cigarettes for women,” he said. 

FARE has written to Dry July’s beneficiary organisations to ‘intervene immediately’ and ensure it ‘repels the influence of the alcohol industry in the future.’

LOGO: Dry July Foundation

“Unless every BWS outlet shuts up shop for the month, this stunt will do nothing to reduce alcohol harm,” Mr Thorn said. 

“This is a cynical marketing exercise by BWS designed to push the Woolworths’ alcohol brand and normalise alcohol.”

FARE is not the only organisation to condemn the partnership, with many other public health organisations and researchers speaking out across the globe.

“This partnership seems particularly bizarre. For years, the alcohol industry has promoted breast cancer awareness activities while selling products that are known to be carcinogenic in an attempt to extend their marketing reach to young women,”  Professor Carol Emslie from Glasgow Caledonian University, UK.

“This partnership seems to be a similarly cynical attempt to extend marketing reach by associating a large alcohol retailer with a well-known charitable cause,” she said.

Dry July CEO Brett MacDonald said the organisation had partnered with BWS because “they recognise the shift in attitudes and behaviours to alcohol consumption in Australia, and stock many non-alcoholic options in their stores for our participants.”

“We are very selective about who we partner with, and we are pleased that BWS is going to help us raise awareness and funds to support the work we do,” he said.

“Prior to the partnership being confirmed, we consulted with our major cancer charity beneficiaries and informed them of the partnership with BWS.

“Over the last few years there has been an increase in the amount of non-alcoholic options on the market, with plenty of non-alcoholic options in store, this has allowed BWS to get on board in a genuine way.”

BWS currently stocks six products with an ABV (alcohol by volume) of 0.0% and a further five with an ABV of 0.5%.