•An advertising campaign for Budweiser fronted by Conor McGregor promoted a competition entitled “Dream Big” which afforded consumers the opportunity to win €50,000 to travel to America to fulfill their dreams.
The television advertisement opened with Conor McGregor walking through a Dublin housing estate, he nodded at people he met as he walked. The voiceover by Conor McGregor said:
"Never give up on your dream. Be your own inspiration. A beacon of self-belief."
He then turns a corner onto a large busy American street where a group of men are playing basketball.
Conor McGregor VO: "Keep proving others wrong. If your dream doesn’t scare you then it’s not big enough"
As Conor McGregor looked over the city he said:
“Dream as big as you dare."
The following on-screen text was accompanied by the Budweiser logo.
“Dream Big - Enter at BudDreamBig.ie ROI Residents 18+ T&Cs apply Closes 24/04/2016
Get the facts. Be Drink Aware
Twitter and Facebook logos also appeared on-screen in the end frame.
The Billboard featured an image of Conor McGregor, with the Budweiser logo in the right hand corner alongside an American skyline in the background, was accompanied by the following text:
Chase your American Dream worth €50,000
Enter at BudDreamBig.ie”
The Facebook and Twitter logos featured alongside the reference to
“Get the facts. Be Drink Aware
ROI Residents 18+ T&Cs apply Closes…”
Both complainants considered that it was irresponsible and inappropriate to link Conor McGregor, who they considered to be a role model/hero for many young children, especially boys, to advertising for an alcohol product alongside the invitation to enter a competition and “Dream Big.”
One complainant also said that he considered MMA to be an aggressive sport and in linking it to an alcohol product, the advertising was sending out a dangerous message to young children.
The advertisers said that their current Budweiser ‘Dream Big’ campaign was a continuation of a campaign that has been running for more than three years. The premise behind the campaign had been to inspire people to follow their ambitions and chase their dreams. They said that the high profile dream ambassadors chosen for their previous campaigns, Kevin Dillon, Aaron Paul and Liam Cunningham (all actors), had been carefully selected to ensure that they had an overwhelming adult appeal and they had always sought relevant substantiation to validate this fact. They said this had also been the case when choosing Mr. Conor McGregor as their current dream ambassador.
In terms of placing their advertising featuring Conor McGregor, the advertisers said it only aired on channels and during programmes which had an overwhelming adult audience for both traditional and digital media channels. They had also worked with selected media partners who they considered to have an overwhelming adult appeal. The premise behind this campaign was to encourage those over 18 to enter the Budweiser competition to be in with a chance of winning the prize of €50,000 to help them achieve their American dream.
The advertisers said that the Budweiser product had not appeared at any stage during the course of their advertising nor had Conor McGregor been seen to consume or interact with the brand. The only Budweiser branding which had appeared on screen was the brand name and the Budweiser bowtie. These had appeared in the end frame alongside the responsible drinking message and the end frame itself was less that one tenth of the overall content of the advertising.
The advertisers said they considered the consumer call to action in their advertising had been to “dream big and enter the competition.” There was no call to action to purchase or consume the product nor was it necessary to purchase or consume the product to enter the competition. They believed that there was no link whatsoever portrayed in their advertising between the consumption of alcohol contributing to any type of success, bravery and/or anti-social behaviour. They said Conor McGregor had not been presented in his UFC environment and he had at all times been depicted in a non-aggressive setting and there had never been any suggestion of the Budweiser brand attributing to his sporting or social success.
The advertisers considered that it would be unfair to compare a minority sport such as UFC/MMA with for example football, GAA or rugby, as these sports had many clubs and followers throughout Ireland. They considered that the organisational structures in place for these sports encouraged extremely high levels of connectivity and structured interaction between the “stars” of these games and their respective young fan base. They pointed out that unlike the many sporting clubs in Ireland for the sports already mentioned, there was less than 1000 registered UFC/MMA participants in this country. In addressing the complainants’ assertions therefore, that by virtue of the fact that Conor McGregor was a World Champion with a high profile, he was an “identifiable hero of the young” they considered this not to be the case and furthermore they said that their independent data had confirmed this not to be the case. They also considered that (as per the ASAI Guidance Note) having a high profile alone was not sufficient to be deemed a hero/heroine of the young. There must also be evidence that young people were emulating the individual and also had the ability to connect with them and they said that they did not consider this to be the case in relation to Conor McGregor. They said that all of his fights, television programmes about him, the top 20 most viewed UFC programmes on Irish television since January 2014 and his own social media profiles had an overwhelming adult focus.
The data provided by the advertisers which they considered to support their claim that Conor McGregor was not a hero of the young related to Facebook, Twitter, television, press, digital media and social media.
In relation to the various media involved the advertisers provided the following statistics:
Date Audience 18+
9th April 2015 92%
31st August 2015 95%
5th January 2016 91%
3rd March 2016 92%
Date Audience 18+
5th January 2016 89%
Date Audience 18+
19th July 2014 90%
27th September 2014 95%
18th January 2015 89%
12th July 2015 87%
14th December 2015 86%
“Notorious” (Documentary 6 episodes)
Date Audience 18+
26th Jan 2015 -
9th March 2015 86% - 95%
In relation to the top 20 most viewed UFC programmes on Irish television between 19th July 2014 and 4th January 2016, the advertisers said that the average audience profile for those aged 18+ was 88%.
In relation to the three newspapers chosen by the advertisers the percentage of readers aged 18+ was 96, 97 and 98%.
In relation to the digital media chosen the average audience aged 18+ was 98%.
The Complaints Committee considered the details of the complaints and the advertisers’ response. They noted the data the advertisers had provided about Conor McGregor’s profile on Facebook and Twitter and the television viewing figures. They also noted however the absence of metrics from other social media platforms such as Instagram and the viewing figures for his UFC fights on YouTube. Whilst noting the data, the Committee pointed out that, while social media metrics may have relevance, they could only be considered as indicators of a person’s popularity and were not a definitive measure in determining hero/heroine of the young status.
They noted that while MMA was considered by many to be an aggressive intentional contact sport which required a certain element of bravery by participants, especially those participating at championship level, there was no aggression portrayed in the advertising nor indeed was there any overt reference to the sport.
The Committee noted one complainant’s concern about linking an ‘aggressive sport’ to alcohol. They noted the Code requires at 9.5(e) that marketing communications for alcohol “should not link in any way the presence or consumption of alcohol to aggressive, unruly, irresponsible or anti-social behaviour.” They did not, however, consider that the content of the advertising had linked the presence or consumption of alcohol to aggressive, unruly, irresponsible or anti-social behaviour in this case.
The Committee noted the advertisers’ comments on the ASAI Guidance Note and the examples contained within in relation to the use of heroes/heroines of the young. The Committee considered however, that these were merely illustrations and are clearly not an exhaustive list.
The Committee considered that the achievement of a highly publicised sporting title (i.e. becoming a world champion) would increase an individual sportperson's profile to a very significant level. They considered that, in such circumstances, it was highly likely that the subsequent fame attaching to such a sporting personality would result in him or her becoming a hero of the young. In this case, Conor McGregor had become a World Champion and in conjunction with his steadily increasing following from an under-18 audience, they concluded that, when the advertising ran, he had become a hero of the young. The advertising was therefore in breach of Sections 9.1 and 9.7(c) of the Code.
The advertising should not be used in the same format again.