'High-risk activities' again discussed by ABAC


A number of complaints relating to beer advertising have faced alcohol advertising watchdog ABAC, including more complaints relating to the portrayal of alcohol in high-risk activities.

High-risk activities

ABAC standards stipulate that marketing communications must not show the consumption of alcohol during or before an activity that requires a high degree of alertness of physical activity.

A number of brands have fallen foul of this rule, as they seek to move beer outside of its standard marketing parameters.

A complainant argued that an Instagram post by Cattleyard Brewing Co. which featured a skateboarder with a beer in hand, demonstrates drinking alcohol before or during “the high-risk behaviour of skating”.

Cattleyard responded saying it had taken down the post and it will be reviewing the code to see the complaint as a learning experience, saying it was not their intention to promote drinking during high-risk activities.

Separately, in an Instagram post, a can of Victoria Bitter was featured on ski slopes, leading to an unnamed person complaining that this breached the same rule.

VB owner Asahi Beverages responded by saying that this marketing communication had not received pre-vetting approval through ABAC’s dedicated service.

The post was dated 18th July 2016, and Asahi said that as a result of the age of the post, the context of the image was lost.

However, it argued that there is nothing to suggest that the individual holding the VB can was about to undertake skiing or snowboarding.

An ABAC adjudication panel agreed, saying that it is not considered a breach to simply associate a product with the sport unless consumption is actually shown.

The panel said that it could be interpreted in the way the complainant argued, however, it is more likely to be understood as associating the beer with being ice cold and there are no other cues that snowboarding or skiing was about to take place. It dismissed the complaint.

In addition, an unnamed complainant argued that swimming is a “high-risk behaviour” and criticised an Instagram post from Swell Brewing Co. regarding its Evening Glass Off DIPA, pictured on a floating surfboard.

The McClaren Vale brewery said that there was no evidence anyone is actually drinking beer or that the container is open.

However, the ABAC panel disagreed, saying that the container is probably open because the ring pull is raised, and the accompanying text to the post declares that it was a “great way to start the day”.

The panel said one element alone would not be decisive but considered together someone would probably understand the post as showing alcohol use while surfing or swimming, it said. The panel upheld the complaint.

Bloke in a Bar

Brewing brand Bloke in a Bar, which has been on the receiving end of complaints before, also featured in ABAC’s latest round of adjudications.

A complainant criticised a series of Instagram posts showing NRL players – including founder Denan Kemp and New Zealand player Brandon Smith – in different poses and locations with a Bloke in a Bar lager.

They argued that Smith is under the age of 25 “displayed in a non-natural situation in a non-age restricted area”. Another of Kemp with his fists raised was said to promote irresponsible behaviour while drinking.

The ABAC code stipulates that marketing must not show or encourage irresponsible behaviour related to the consumption or presence of alcohol.

The company responded by saying that the image of Kemp was a parody and that they were not aware that there were age restrictions on actors and paid influencers who were promoting alcohol should be over the age of 25.

The ABAC panel noted that it was the third determination relating to Denan Kemp’s beer brand.

It upheld two of the complaints, saying that showing beer consumption near a construction site could suggest drinking while working in a situation that requires alertness and physical coordination, and that showing someone under 24 years of age drinking was against advertising rules.

However, it dismissed the last one, of Kemp himself, saying that the post would not be taken as promoting offensive behaviour.

Brookvale Union

Brookvale Union, which has also faced ABAC before, received a complaint despite having pre-vetted two television advertisements.

The complainant asserted that the adverts show the product altering perceptions of reality, in that they show people drinking Brookvale Union’s Boozy Seltzer brands and then having hallucinations.

In a lengthy reply, Brookvale Union owner Asahi argued that the ‘hallucinations’ were used to emphasise the effects of the flavour on the palate.

The ABAC panel said that the people featured do not appear intoxicated and have only had a mouthful of the drink, there is no depiction of a mood being altered, and a reasonable person would most likely understand the ad as using an imaginary scene to highlight the taste of the product. As such, it dismissed the complaint.

Colonial Brewng

Meanwhile, Colonial Brewing Co. has been featured in the ABAC adjudications list again for its social media posts.

A complainant argued that one (pictured above) featuring a man with a beer in hand and a surfboard under his arm was encouraging drinking alcohol “during the high-risk behaviour of surfing” – echoing the phrase used regarding the Cattleyard Brewing Co. post.

They also argued that a user-submitted video showed people wakeboarding while being thrown a beer, for the same reason.

Colonial responded by saying that the first post clearly shows post-surf beers being drunk due to the wet hair of the surfer, and ABAC agreed.

The brewery did however remove the video of the wakeboarder being thrown a beer and did not dispute that complaint. ABAC upheld this complaint but dismissed the previous one.

Beer packaging

A complaint about Mash Brewing Company’s Instagram post featuring its Gose-ade beer, which a complainant said mimics the energy drink Gatorade, highlights the issue with ‘borrowing’ from non-alcohol brands.

The complainant said that the energy drink which the beer branding mimics is drunk by minors and that the post contains language about refreshing yourself and how it contains electrolytes, which they argued was making health claims.

Mash responded that there was no indication of health benefits, highlighting the use of Gose in the name, and the idea that it was emphasising quenching of thirst over its alcohol content.

The ABAC panel dealt with the accusations of appealing to minors, which is prohibited under the code, by saying that while it does resemble some aspects of the Gatorade drink, the energy drink is not exclusively targeted at minors and has general appeal.

The panel judged the post including its accompanying text which includes references to beer, and as a whole determined it did not breach the rules around appealing to minors.

It also said that the most probable understanding of the claims of the beer is not a therapeutic or health benefit either, and dismissed the complaint.

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