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ASAI Code 7th Edition: 2.4(c), 9.1, 9.5(a), 9.5(b), 9.5(d), 9.7(b), 9.7(c), 9.7(d), 9.7(e)
A poster advertisement for Guinness stated:
“SOME THINGS JUST BELONG TOGETHER
The Guinness Harp was positioned one side of the words Guinness and Six Nations and the Six Nations rugby ball symbol the other side.
The headline filled the width of the poster and was printed over two lines. The background of the poster was black with text in white.
The Drinkaware logo and strapline featured at the bottom of the poster.
Alcohol Action Ireland considered that the statement “Some things just belong together” was joining alcohol with sport and was reinforcing a social norm that alcohol was central to sport. They said that for children viewing the poster, the explicit message was the Guinness and Rugby hold a symbiotic relationship and that alcohol was central to sport. They considered that the explicit message of the words “some things”, as only two ‘things’ were central, was that Guinness and Rugby were fundamentally and inextricably linked. They considered that this was supported by the use of the word “just” which reconfirmed this as fact or reason and the use of the word “belong” which determined the attachment or bound by allegiance, dependency or membership, while “together” closed the connection by defining a relationship.
They considered that any child viewing the poster would take the message that Guinness and Rugby held a symbiotic relationship and that alcohol was central to sport which they considered was incorrect and untrue.
They considered that the advertising was in breach of Sections 9.1, 9.5(a), (b) and (d). 9.7, 9.7(b), (c) and (d) of the Code.
The advertisers stated that they take very seriously their commitment to promote responsible drinking and balanced lifestyle, notably through responsible marketing. They said that all of their campaigns were designed to ensure that they fully complied with both the letter and spirit of the regulations laid out by the ASAI Code and all their marketing material goes through a detailed approval process, both internally and with Copy Clear.
In response to the issues raised by the complainants, Diageo said that they did not agree that the tagline was an explicit message suggesting that the consumption of alcohol was inextricably linked to sports, nor could it in any way be interpreted as encouraging children to drink alcohol. They said that sponsorship of sports tournaments by alcohol brands was permitted and widely practiced in Ireland. They said that the tagline “Some things just belong together” celebrated the sponsorship by Guinness of the Six Nations Rugby Championship. They said that there were great synergies between Guinness and the Six Nations in the sense that they were two widely known iconic brands reaching global audiences. They said that Guinness had camaraderie, trust and friendship at the heart of its brand essence and was proud to celebrate people from diverse backgrounds coming together in support of similar values; and the Six Nations had always been known as a sports tournament that celebrated friendly rivalry, common values and the love of rugby bringing people together despite their differences. They said that Guinness used the tagline “Made of More” in most of their advertising, whereas the Six Nations rightly claimed to be “Rugby’s Greatest Championship”, which meant more to rugby fans than any other, therefore, the tagline “Some things just belong together” was purely in recognition of the common values and similarities of Guinness and the Six Nations brands and what they mean to global audiences. They did not consider that it suggested that sport was fundamentally linked to alcohol consumption and the advertisement did not contain any reference to drinking alcohol as such, therefore, nothing in the wording or the visual could be interpreted as encouraging excessive alcohol consumption or promoting socially irresponsible behaviour. They also referred to the fact that the Drink Aware logo had been prominently included in the advertisement to ensure that the message was promoted.
In response to the reference to Code Sections 9.5(a), (b) and (d), the advertisers stated that it was difficult to assert why the complainants considered their advertising was in breach as they had not provided any explanation for this aspect of their complaint. They said that there was nothing in the advertisement that referred to any performance capabilities or success and nothing that portrayed drinking as a challenge.
In response to the reference to the sections under 9.7 of the Code, they stated that there was nothing in the advertisement that could be seen to be directed at children. They said that they used a black background with white letters and was intentionally an adult design in order to avoid any appeal to children. They said that there is no use of, or reference to, any heroes of the young, nor did it feature any personalities that would have any particular child appeal. Also, they said that the advertisement required a certain level of interpretation to make the connection between Guinness and the Six Nations sponsorship, which they considered was highly unlikely to have any particular appeal to children.
Finally they stated that the Six Nations tournament had a primarily adult appeal, therefore, any advertisement which claimed a link between Guinness and the Six Nations was targeted at such adult audiences. As an example, they said that the TV audience of the Six Nations matches were 90% over 18 and that similarly the Six Nations following on social media was primarily over the age of 18 with only 1%, 7% and 14.25% being under the legal permitted age on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter respectively.
In response to an ASAI Executive request to comment on the ASAI Guidance Note on Alcohol advertising, in particular to the guidance on Sponsorship and events, paragraph (k) – (o), the advertisers pointed out that while 9.7(c) of the Code states that “marketing communications should not sue or refer to identifiable heroes of the young”, the advertisement did not depict or refer to any individual or a group of individuals who would be considered a hero or heroes of the young. The focus was on the tournament and section 9.79(i) of the Guidance note states that “events and tournaments are generally not considered as heroes of the young”. They considered that as the advertisement only focused on the sponsorship and did not show or refer to heroes of the young should mean that it fell squarely within the remit of this section.
The advertisers said that their sponsorship complied with the AMCMB Code of Sponsorship and that they were committed to ensuring that their marketing material complied with the requirements of the ASAI and the AMCMB Codes.
They said that the imagery used in the advertisement was the official Guinness Six Nations logo and by using the tagline “Some things just belong together”, the focus of the advertisement was purely on the sponsorship of the tournament by Guinness. They also said that the Guinness logo only appeared as an element of the sponsorship logo in which it was embedded and that the space taken up by the Guinness name and logo was relatively minimal in the context of the available space. They said that they could have used a number of official tournament titles such as “The Official Title Sponsor of the Guinness 6 Nations Championship” but they believed that by using the official logo only, the focus was entirely on the event itself and no undue attention was being drawn to the product or the brand.
Complaint Not Upheld.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint and the advertisers’ response.
The Committee noted the Code requirement that marketing communications’ compliance with the Code should be assessed when taken as a whole and in context.
The Committee considered that the advertisement was a sponsorship advertisement for an event and not an advertisement for an alcohol product.
Notwithstanding the fact that the advertisement related to the sponsorship of a tournament rather than to promotion of an alcohol product, the Committee considered whether the advertisement had exploited the young or immature, or encouraged excessive drinking (9.1) whether it had implied that the presence or consumption of alcohol could improve physical performance (9.5a) or contribute to sporting success (9.5b). Taking account of the design and focus of the advertisement and that the product name only appeared as part of the official logo of the tournament, the Committee did not consider that the advertisement breached sections 9.1, 9.5a and 9.5b.
The Committee then considered whether the advertising was directed at children or in any way encouraged them to drink (9.7), whether it used or referred to identifiable heroes or heroines of the young (9.7c), or whether it breached 9.7(b) or 9.7(d) (above).
In relation to 9.7, taking account of the design, content and colours used in the advertisement, they did not consider that the advertisement was directed at children, nor that it encouraged children to drink.
The Committee noted that the advertisement did not refer or feature individuals, being solely focussed on the tournament and did not consider that it had used or referred to identifiable heroes or heroines of the young. The Committee also considered that the advertisement did not contain aspects or youth culture or treatments likely to appeal to children nor that it featured personalities or characters that would have a particular appeal to children. In the circumstances, the Committee did not consider that the advertisement was in breach of Section 9.7(b), (c) or (d) of the Code.”
The Committee noted the complainant’s concerns that the explicit message was that Guinness and Rugby had a symbiotic relationship, that alcohol was central to sport and that the two were fundamentally and inextricably linked. While the Committee did not agree with the complainant’s interpretation of the advertisement, particularly in relation to there being a symbiotic relationship between the product and rugby, they considered that caution should be exercised in developing the theme in the advertisement further. Specifically referencing the tournament sponsorship through the use of agreed taglines would in their view assist in bringing further clarity to the advertisement’s message.
In assessing the advertisement’s compliance with the Code when taken as a whole and in context, the Committee did not consider that the advertisement had breached the Code.
No further action was required in relation to the particular advertisement under review. The Complaints Committee told the advertisers to take account of their views in relation to including tournament taglines.