Research indicates that university student sportspeople are a high‐risk subgroup for hazardous alcohol consumption. Adopting a social identity perspective, we explored the social and psychological processes linking sports participation and alcohol use. Twenty‐two individual semi‐structured interviews were conducted with UK student sportspeople (male: 12; female: 10). A deductive thematic analysis identified three core themes: social identification and sports group membership, identity processes in (alcohol) behaviours and sport context‐specific significance of alcohol. Results suggest that the consumptive practices among student sportspeople were strategic activities underpinned by social identity processes, and which served to provide a positive sports experience at the group level. Our findings highlight the interactions between the sport environment, the social structure of sport participation and the multipurpose function of alcohol in this context. We discuss the implications of these results in support of a social identity approach to sport‐related drinking.