RTE has no problem broadcasting a programme about McGregor himself. "The Notorious" is available on the RTE Player (here). Nor does it have any problem advertising alcohol products. It will also cover news of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) in its sports programmes. Unfortunately, this week MMA made the headlines for the death of a participant in a Dublin event (the RTE website has the story here).
And it is not only on RTE that the McGregor ad seems to get treated differently. It seems it is acceptable to have a sporting personality appear in an advert for gambling - even a jockey. Bookmaker Paddy Power has a superb range of adverts involving Ruby Walsh. Here is one available on YouTube (here). However, one has to declare one is over 18 to be allowed watch the McGregor advert on YouTube (here).
It is hard to see the consistency.
Of course, advertising alcohol can have harmful consequences. As can advertising gambling. As can the advertising of cigarettes. Cigarette companies used to sponsor sport in a way that drinks companies and bookmakers do nowadays. Then the TV advertising of cigarettes, and the sponsorship of sporting events, was banned. This has coincided with a dramatic decline in the consumption of cigarettes. This might justify a ban on the advertising of alcohol or gambling but it hardly justifies selective banning of adverts.
Although the banning of cigarette advertising has coincided with a reduction in consumption it is difficult to know the exact causation. The picture below shows expenditure on tobacco (primarily cigarettes) in Ireland by income decile. Fifty years ago, the more income a household had then the more it spent on tobacco. The poorest 10% of households spent the least on tobacco. This changed with the passage of time. In 2009-10 the wealthiest 10% of households spent the least on tobacco. It is difficult to see a clear link between the banning of TV advertising, the banning of cigarette company sponsorship of sports events, and the relatively greater reduction in consumption among the wealthier households.
There is a case for banning advertising of particular products. There is a case for banning advertising that links sport and particular products. But it would be good to see a more consistent approach.
The ironic thing about the McGregor advert is that he may be engaged in a activity that is not actually recognised as a sport in Ireland (here). If he is not engaged in a sport then on what grounds was this alcohol advert banned?