ABAC has dismissed a trio of complaints covering sport and public transport advertisements from Lion and Gage Roads, as well as a Facebook post by CUB-owned 4 Pines.
The complaints may have been dismissed, but they highlight the ongoing discussion around alcohol advertising and sport, as well as the evolving nature of social media and its relationship with alcohol marketing.
Sports advertising and product placement
In a ruling regarding sports advertising and product placement, ABAC dismissed complaints against two XXXX Gold adverts aired during the Australia vs New Zealand Test Match over Christmas on Channel 7.
Unbeknownst to the complainant, Lion had already received pre-vetting for both the adverts and their placement in the Backyard Banter segment of the programming.
In a detailed objection the complainant argued against the frequency of the first advertisement. They said that the actors in the advert who were shown playing backyard cricket were made to be “socially attractive” and with “increased sporting prowess”. They also objected to the idea that children viewing the cricket would be exposed to the advert.
An additional complaint related to a second segment in which eminent cricketers are shown discussing sporting highlights holding XXXX Gold cans. They said it failed to make it clear it was sponsored, that the can placement gave the idea that “sporting brilliance” would be associated with the beer, and similar to the previous complaints, that it was shown too much and children may view it.
The complaints hit on a number of touch points for ABAC, including associating alcohol consumption and sporting success or activities and placement rules with regards to audience age.
Lion responded saying that it did not have control over the programming, but that product placement was one of the benefits to Lion as a sponsor of Cricket Australia.
It sent in audience composition data showing that at least 80 per cent of those viewing each advert slot were over 18 (with 75 per cent being the lowest advised level).
Lion also responded to the backyard cricket advert complaint, saying it does not imply that drinking alcohol will make a person better at sport and shows only moderate alcohol consumption.
ABAC said that cricket cannot be fairly said the be primarily aimed at children, even if the sport has a board appeal. It judged that placement rules had not been breached.
It ruled that the advert had not breached the code, as it was lighthearted in tone and not seriously showing any sporting prowess, with the presence of alcohol “shown humorously as an obstacle”.
With regards to the cricketer panel segment, ABAC said it fell within sponsorship exemptions and that under acceptable product placement rules, associated cricket and the sport with XXXX. It said this association was not an issue, as it only rules to uphold a complaint if an advert associates alcohol directly with sporting prowess or other forms of cultural ‘success’.
Social media posts and emojis
A social media advert was the subject of the latest complaint for a CUB-owned company. This month 4 Pines faced a panel over an advert for its beer cocktails posted by its brewpub venue, Welcome to Brunswick, on Facebook.
The complainant was concerned that it promotes excessive and irresponsible consumption of alcohol “which is not acceptable at any time, regardless of the time of year or religious holiday”.
The unnamed person also said that including an upside-down smiley face emoji “represents the idea that the face is drunk and that people can only be happy in this venue whilst intoxicated”.
4 Pines responded saying that neither the words “a few extra” nor the emoji could be seen to implicitly or explicitly refer to excessive consumption of alcohol.
It noted that the upside-down smiley face in common usage is not a visual representation of drunkenness, and said that there is no suggestion that a beer cocktail will contribute to a significant change in mood or environment.
ABAC said that a reasonable person would not be deciphering the finer points of the post, like its emoji use. With that in mind, the panel said that it did not believe the content of the post was encouraging excessive or irresponsible drinking and dismissed the complaint.
Alcohol advertising on public transport
Lion and Gage Roads Brewing Co brands advertisements on public transport were the target of another complaint to ABAC this month.
The complainant argued that children and people who abuse alcohol would be exposed to the adverts on the NSW Government Transport System. Public transport advertising has been covered by ABAC before.
However ABAC was not convinced by the argument, and reiterated the rules around outside advertising which stipulate that while it is not possible to stop minors noticing billboards in the public realm, the rule is that ads cannot be placed within 150 metres of a school.
The ABAC panel said that there is no restriction under the code on alcohol advertising on public transport, and while some state governments restrict this advertising on railway land or trains an buses, there is no such restriction in NSW.
It dismissed the complaints.