Aims: To examine the nature and extent of alcohol industry sponsorship of sportspeople, and its association with drinking. Methods: A purposive sample of participants (n = 1279) from various sporting codes were asked whether they personally, their team, or club received free and/or discounted alcohol or funding from an alcohol industry body (e.g. pub, brewery, wholesaler); how much they received; and whether they felt they should drink their sponsor's product and/or at the sponsor's premises. Drinking behaviour was assessed with the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) questionnaire. Findings: Alcohol industry sponsorship was reported by 47.8% of the sample. Of those sponsored, 47% reported receiving free and/or discounted alcohol products. In multivariate models, those receiving sponsorship at the individual, team and club level had AUDIT scores that were, on average, 2.4 points higher [95% confidence interval (CI): 0.70-4.09] than those who received no sponsorship. Receiving free and/or discounted alcohol (βadj = 0.95, 95% CI: 0.01-1.88) and feeling that they should go to the sponsor's pub/club to drink (βadj = 1.91, 95% CI: 0.85-2.98) were also associated with higher AUDIT scores. Provision of free or discounted alcoholic beverages was associated more strongly with AUDIT scores (βadj = 1.56; 95% CI: 0.62-2.51) than other forms of sponsorship from the alcohol industry (e.g. provision of uniforms). Conclusions: Alcohol industry sponsorship of sportspeople, and in particular the provision of free or discounted alcoholic beverages, is associated with hazardous drinking after adjustment for a range of potential confounders. Sports administration bodies should consider the health and ethical risks of accepting alcohol industry sponsorship. © 2008 The Authors.