The commission's consultative document on "commercial communications" proposes to harmonise rules governing advertising, sponsorship, sales promotion and public relations. This would mean that restrictions on advertising or sponsorship in one member state could be imposed on the rest.
Sweden, for instance, imposes restrictions on advertising aimed at children under the age of 12. If the commission deems this to be in the interests of all young children, not just in Sweden, it could extend the ban across Europe. The knock-on effect could seriously threaten many forms of sponsorship.
The consultation paper has been supported by the European parliament but the proposals have yet to be adopted by the commission. They were attacked by Jim Murphy, director of BEUC, the European consumers' organisation, for representing sponsorship in glowing terms. "The particular focus seems to look only upon restrictions as denying funding to good causes. Sponsorship is simply represented as a benevolent source of funds, but it does have its downside and can have a long-term negative effect," Mr Murphy said.