Know the rules on alcohol promotions

PromoVeritas and Marketing Week team up
12th December 2013
Key CAP Code changes – impacting on promotions
30th April 2015

Senior Compliance Manager, Claire Serle, highlights some of the issues concerning alcohol promotions.

The marketing of several product categories always seems to attract media, public and government attention.  At the moment it is sugar that in the spotlight but alcohol is never far from scrutiny.  Last month the BBC reported that in Finland, beer can no longer be used as prize in pub quizzes or competitions and outdoor advertising (ie posters) and social media ads for alcoholic drinks have been banned altogether. Other EU countries have varying levels of controls on alcohol advertising and alcohol promotions.

In an effort to limit controversy and tame some of the more ridiculous claims being made for alcoholic drinks, in 1996 the main brand owners created the Portman Code for Responsible Drink Marketing and it has been successful in ensuring that brands can still advertise in UK – provided they follow the rules and behave socially responsibly.  But self-regulation is not perfect – it is often the small, niche brands, who have not signed up to Portman, that can inflame the wrath of the legislators or provoke tighter regulation.

Creating sales promotions for alcohol brands requires special attention.  Firstly you need to consider targeting – both in terms of the marcomms itself (it should not appear in media where 25% of the audience is under 18 years of age) and the promotional products offered (they should have no appeal to under 18’s, nor must free samples or prizes fall into the hands of minors).  Promoters also need to ensure that promotions are responsible and that extends to the promotional gifts or prizes themselves.  Offering consumers the chance to win a year’s supply of whisky could be deemed to be promoting irresponsible or immoderate consumption, the best option would be to award 12 separate people a bottle of whisky rather than 12 to one person.

Ads and promotions in social media can also pose problems.  For example, anyone featuring in an advert or marketing for an alcohol brand should look and be over the age of 25. This can cause problems for marketers who allow users to upload their own photos or use photos of real consumers on Facebook and other social media sites (see here for an upheld ruling on one brand’s Facebook page).

In short, the marketing of alcohol needs to be handled sensitively and responsibly.  Ill-judged and irresponsible marketing helps no one in the long run and the best way to ensure advertising freedom in the future is to respect the rules of today and seek appropriate compliance advise whenever necessary.

To find out about running alcohol promotions, age-gates and more contact PromoVeritas at, email

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