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“Bringing you the Best”: John Player & Sons, Cricket, and the Politics of Tobacco Sport Sponsorship in Britain, 1969–1986

O'Neill, Daniel; Greenwood, Anna

“Bringing you the Best”: John Player & Sons, Cricket, and the Politics of Tobacco Sport Sponsorship in Britain, 1969–1986 Thumbnail


Daniel O'Neill

Professor of Health History


This article explores some of the marketing strategies associated with the British tobacco industry's sponsorship of sport during the 1960s and 1970s. It focuses on the British cigarette and tobacco manufacturer John Player & Sons and the firm's pioneering initiative to sponsor one-day cricket, which began with the John Player League in 1969. The league was enormously popular and gained significant broadcast coverage, becoming an invaluable means of increasing public exposure for the company, in the context of the ban of cigarette advertising from British television. At a time when the link between smoking and disease was making headlines, John Player & Sons nimbly deflected attention away from the health issue, and instead consciously repositioned the tobacco company as a generous benefactor of the nation's sport and leisure. Less conspicuously, but even more powerfully, spokespeople for the tobacco industry actively mobilised influential opinion behind the scenes in political circles. We show particularly how Denis Howell, Minister for Sport from 1964 to 1969 and from 1974 to 1979, became a valuable ally, acting as a bulwark against more restrictive government interventions into the sponsorship of sports by the tobacco industry. This alliance exposes changing industry-government relations and presents new historical context to better understand the way British tobacco manufacturers proactively sought to elide restrictions on their advertising activities from the 1980s onwards.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 29, 2022
Online Publication Date Aug 11, 2022
Publication Date 2023-06
Deposit Date Aug 1, 2022
Publicly Available Date Aug 11, 2022
Journal European Journal for the History of Medicine and Health
Print ISSN 2666-7703
Electronic ISSN 2666-7711
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 80
Issue 1
Pages 152-184
Public URL
Publisher URL


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