A complaint about third party marketing featuring Pirate Life beers has been upheld by ABAC.
The issue arose over a video for a media publication which featured Pirate Life’s snowboarding apparel collaboration beer Burton x Pirate Life Frontside Ale. The beer has been on the receiving end of an ABAC complaint before, although on that occasion the complaint was dismissed.
The complaint arose over a video created for Transfer Snowboard Magazine which depicts several men, including professional snowboarder Jye Kearney and two Instagram influencers who have nearly half a million followers between them, at Thredbo Resort in New South Wales.
Eight minutes into the video, which was not pre-vetted by ABAC, the men are seen handing out beers and subsequently one of the men performs a backflip on a snow ramp holding a can of Pirate Life, drinking it as he snowboards from the ramp.
The complainant said that the video was ‘sponsored content’ and contains product placement of Pirate Life beers, and that Pirate Life’s subsequent Facebook post, which featured stills of the event, which the unnamed person said meant there was a relationship between the company and the video.
Their overarching complaint was that the video shows the consumption of alcohol while performing the high risk activity of snowboarding.
The ABAC code stipulates that marketing communications must not show the consumption of alcohol before or during an activity that requires a high degree of alertness or physical coordination.
Pirate Life, which has been on the receiving end of multiple complaints, responded saying it often sponsors sports such as snowboarding, and is a sponsor of the Winter Missions content series by snowboarding publication Transfer, of which the video in question was part.
CUB and Pirate Life said they did not have any effective or practical editorial control over Transfer’s content, but the breweries did admit that the video is a clear breach of the standard.
“We will be taking this opportunity to educate Transfer on the responsible depiction of alcohol in its content,” said the response by Pirate Life.
The brewery argued that it did not seek to direct users to the YouTube video, and the still images it published to its Facebook page were believed to be in compliance with the code.
“Considerable care has been taken to ensure the sequence of photos depicts consumption taking place after snowboarding activity,” it said.
“CUB is committed to ensuring our promotional and marketing material, and that of our associated entities such as Pirate Life, does not promote or encourage any irresponsible consumption of alcohol…
“We are disappointed that in this instance, a third party’s content, that we have sponsored via the provision of product but over which we have not had any editorial control, has breached the ABAC. We are taking steps to ensure this will not be repeated in the future.”
An ABAC panel responded saying that it considered the references to Pirate Life’s products in the video to have been generated through the actions of the brewer; that is that it agreed to provide them as part of its sponsorship deal, and therefore they fall under the scope of ABAC.
It noted that Pirate Life did not dispute the complaint, and said that while the company did not have control over the video content, it should have sought the cooperation of its collaborator to ensure it was consistent with the responsible depictions of alcohol stipulated in the code.
It upheld the complaint.
Currumbin Valley Breakfast Juice
A complaint relating to Currumbin Valley Brewing’s Breakfast Juice echoes issues which other breweries have had when it comes to ‘juicy’ beers.
A complainant argued that the beer could appeal to minors as it resembles soft drink breakfast juice.
It’s not the first brewery that has received a similar complaint about its packaging. Land & Sea Brewery in Queensland also had a complaint upheld regarding its Juicebox IPA recently, as did Fixation for Squish IPA.
But Currumbin Valley refuted the complainant’s assertion that illustrations of fruit and other stylised imagery has a strong or evident appeal to minors. It said the beer style ‘hazy IPA’ was labelled on the site.
“Breakfast Juice was named so as to describe the hazy, orange appearance and fruity, juicy flavour characteristics imparted by the heavy use of hops in this product,” it said.
“We do accept that the use of the Breakfast Juice name without a clear alcohol descriptor could potentially be mistaken for a non-alcoholic fruit juice beverage.”
It said that while it is not a signatory of the ABAC code. It respects the “vital role ABAC plays in the liquor industry and if this complaint is upheld we will retire the Breakfast Juice beer name, label and imagery.”
Currumbin Valley said it would need to run through its remaining label stock of around 100 cases
“Unfortunately, as a small business, we are unable to endure the financial impact that immediate disposal of labels would have on our business, especially during this economic downturn. We trust that you understand our position,” it said.
The ABAC judging panel acknowledged that despite not being a signatory of the code, Currumbin had fully cooperated with the process.
It said that in craft beer, ‘juice’ and ‘juicy are frequently used descriptors, but that it was fair to say that the general community would potentially associate it with known non-alcoholic beverages such as fruit juice and soft drinks.
Thus, beer packaging has a greater responsibility to establish the alcohol content of the product, as ABAC does not ban these descriptors outright.
It ruled that Currumbin Valley’s packaging was in breach of the code, as there was not enough to indicate that the beverage was alcoholic, the name and design strongly suggested an affinity with soft drinks, and the overall effect could be that it would appeal to minors.
The complaint was upheld.