Beer Ads Up to Code, Self-Regulatory Body Concludes

Advertising Law

A beer company’s ad campaign did not run afoul of the industry’s self-regulatory principles, the Code Compliance Review Board (CCRB, or the Board) of the Beer Institute recently determined. The CCRB is composed of individuals with varied professional experience who are independent of the brewing industry.

As part of its “Fighting Spirit” campaign, Modelo Beer ran a pair of television commercials featuring triathlete Melissa Stockwell and UFC participant Brian Ortega. In the Stockwell commercial, the injured Iraqi War veteran is depicted at the end of the commercial, toasting with a Modelo beer in hand and a medal around her neck.

Similarly, the Ortega commercial shows him toasting Modelos with friends at the end of the commercial.

A New York resident complained that the ads violated Section 4(c) of the Beer Institute Advertising and Marketing Code. That provision states: “Beer advertising and marketing materials may portray beer as a part of personal and social interactions and experiences, and a brand may be portrayed in appropriate surroundings as a superior choice to complement a particular occasion or activity. Beer advertising and marketing materials should not, however, claim or represent that individuals cannot obtain social, professional, educational, athletic or financial success or status without beer consumption.”

The CCRB unanimously agreed that the commercials did not violate the Code.

In Stockwell’s commercial, she had a medal around her neck when she toasted with a Modelo, “clearly demonstrating that the celebratory toast takes place post-competition, after the medals have been awarded,” the Board wrote. “There is no implication in the commercial that drinking Modelo helped her achieve her championship.”

As for Ortega, he was not shown drinking during training or competition, meaning there was “no implication that drinking Modelo has improved Mr. Ortega’s prowess, performance or training.”

According to Section 4(c), “a brand may be portrayed in appropriate surroundings as a superior choice to complement a particular occasion or activity,” and the Board unanimously concluded that this was the case for both commercials, finding no violation of the provision.

The complaint also asserted that Modelo’s commercials violated the Code with their placement on YouTube, alleging that unspecified “techniques” were used to sidestep age-gating requirements.

Again, the Board sided with the advertiser. Attempts by the CCRB to access the Modelo commercials without registering with Google or YouTube (a process that requires age data) were unsuccessful, according to the decision, and the most recent report of YouTube’s audience measurement service found that it exceeded the compliance requirement set forth in the Code.

To read the decision, click here.

Why it matters: The CCRB’s decision made clear that beer companies can use athletes in their advertisements, as long as beer is portrayed in the ads as part of a personal and social choice, not something that helps the athlete obtain athletic or professional success.

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