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Volume 7 No. 149
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Russian Football Side Zenit St. Petersburg Signs Deal With Beer Brand Heineken

The signing of a sponsorship contract between Heineken and Russian football club Zenit may become a major step toward the return of beer sales and advertisements to the country's football arenas. The deal, estimated to be worth about $2.3M a year and the biggest involving an int'l brewery and a Russian sports team in years, will allow Russian football squads to raise the issue of beer sales, Zenit General Dir Maxim Mitrofanov was quoted as saying by the Russian daily Vedomosti. Beer sales are totally banned at Russian arenas, while beer advertisements can only be installed no closer than 100m from sports stadiums. In '13, all beer ads were banned in Russia, but as the country prepares to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup, the legislation was slightly relaxed. However, this was only for a period preceding the tournament and a few months after its end. Since the restrictions were adopted in '13, clubs and officials have been complaining that Russia is one of the world’s few countries where beer ads and sales are banned at sports arenas.

ON TAP: The situation has discouraged local and int'l breweries from sponsoring clubs and events as actively as they did just a few years ago. "In Russia, there are many factors that have a negative impact on breweries' operations and, consequently, on their ability to support sports teams," Pavel Yerankevich, director for development of national and regional brands at major Russian brewery Baltika, told SBD Global, adding that legislation is one of them. According to Yerankevich, restrictions on beer advertisements should be lifted permanently. "Lifting the ban on beer sales at Russian sports venues would certainly help to attract more breweries as sponsors of tournaments and squads," Maxim Kleiman, Head of Business Development & Sales at sports marketing research company Repucom, said. "However, this is not just a matter of sponsorship but rather partnership," he explained. "If the ban were lifted, breweries would have the opportunity to sell beer at stadiums providing a clear and quick return to any initial investment."
Vladimir Kozlov is a writer in Moscow.