South African wine firm defends British homeless mag deal

16th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

A South African wine brand defended Friday its sponsorship of Britain's top homelessness magazine after sellers called it a "bad, ironic joke" that could fuel more alcoholic stereotyping.

Fairhills has signed a 60,000-pound (90,000-dollar, 70,000-euro) deal that involves The Big Issue's homeless street sellers wear the wine's logo on new red tops.

However, some vendors believe the deal is inappropriate as many are recovering alcoholics and drug addicts.

In Bath, southwest England, seller Shane Hayton told the BBC: "We suffer enough in Bath as it is without stereotyping homeless people as drug addicts or drinkers, when we're not.

"Now we are going to be walking around with wine adverts which is going to make everybody think we're alcoholics."

Homeless Matthew Blackman, 40, who sells The Big Issue in nearby Bristol, said: "It's disgusting because most of us vendors are either drug addicts or alcoholics.

"It's like some bad, ironic joke," he was quoted as saying in the Daily Mail newspaper.

Fairhills founder Bernard Fontannaz said by sponsoring the vendors they were showing support for the treatment of alcohol misuse. He said they were opening an alcohol treatment centre in South Africa.

"We are a wine company which takes responsibility for alcohol abuse, to do more than put a health warning on the back of our bottle," he said.

"We also wanted to contribute in countries where we sell our wines.

"We could have spent 60,000 pounds on an ad in a glossy magazine to promote our product... but what good will it have made to the vendors?"

The Big Issue offers homeless and vulnerable people the opportunity to earn a legitimate income. Vendors buy copies for 85 pence each and sell them for 1.70 pounds.

"There are quite negative stereotypes attached to homeless people -- not just Big Issue vendors -- around alcohol," a magazine spokesman told the BBC.

"However, Fairhills is a fair-trade wine company, they work with underprivileged groups in South Africa and we think their ethos is not contrary to that of The Big Issue."

© 2010 AFP

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