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ASA Ruling on Diageo Great Britain Ltd

Diageo Great Britain Ltd

Lakeside Drive
Park Royal
NW10 7HQ


28 January 2015


Television, Internet (video)



Number of complaints:




Complaint Ref:



Summary of Council decision:

Three issues were investigated, all of which were Not upheld.


A TV ad and an online video for Haig Club whisky:

a. The TV ad featured David Beckham, who was riding a motorcycle, and others travelling through a craggy landscape to meet each other. The actors were all shown congregating in smart attire, with Beckham carrying a bottle of Haig Club. He poured the drink into tumblers for them and they were then shown posing for photographs while, initially, holding their tumblers. The background changed to show different countries and settings, and the arrangement of the group also changed, with the characters no longer holding their glasses, before returning to the original group photograph. The ad ended with a shot of the product and the caption "Haig Club single grain scotch whisky Welcome."

b. The online video, seen on and the Haig Club YouTube channel, featured the same content as (a).


The ASA received two complaints.

Alcohol Concern, who considered that David Beckham would have strong appeal to those under 18 years of age, challenged whether ad (a) was irresponsible because it:

1. featured David Beckham promoting an alcoholic beverage; and

2. implied that drinking was a key component of social success or acceptance, and that refusal was a sign of weakness.

3. Alcohol Concern and one other complainant challenged whether ad (b) implied that drinking was a key component to the success of a personal relationship or social event.

CAP Code (Edition 12)



1. Diageo Great Britain Ltd stated that Haig Club was launched in partnership with David Beckham and Simon Fuller, and that Beckham had a fundamental role in developing the brand and its strategy, including participating in advertising and being a global brand ambassador. They stated that Beckham's prominent role in the ad reflected this partnership.

Diageo stated that the Scotch Whisky category appealed primarily to adults over 25 years of age, and that they chose to partner with Beckham because he was a global icon that had strong appeal to the target consumer group of males between 25 and 40. They stated that his appeal was predominantly to those in this age range and that he did not have strong appeal to children and was not a person whose example children are likely to follow. Diageo stated that Beckham was primarily known for his role as a former professional footballer and that he had limited resonance with young people in the UK, particularly in comparison with current players and other cultural youth icons. They noted that he had not played in the Premier League for over 10 years, retired from professional football in 2013 and had only lived in the UK for two of the last 11 years. They stated that his appeal was strongest amongst adults who would have followed his professional and personal journey, particularly during the 1998 World Cup.

Diageo noted that, since his retirement as a footballer, Beckham's profile had been driven by global business interests, media presence and charity work, all of which were adult focused. They stated that his public appearances centred on his commercial brand partnerships, which were predominantly high-end luxury brands aimed at a wholly adult demographic and generally targeted at affluent males over 25. They provided a list of Beckham's commercial partnerships, including Breitling watches, Belstaff, Jaguar and Las Vegas Sands. Diageo noted that Beckham was also known for his ambassadorial and charity work, including the Sainsbury's sponsorship of the 2012 Paralympic Games, the Sainsbury's Active Kids campaign (which they noted was because of his direct appeal to parents as an ex-athlete and father of four) and as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador (whose campaigns were focused on, and suitable for, an adult audience). Diageo also stated that Beckham had recently appeared in a BBC documentary about a trip to Brazil, with 95% of the 5 million viewers having been over 18, and that he regularly appeared in magazines with an adult readership. They stated that their consumer research confirmed that his appeal was predominantly adult, that 76% of his Facebook page subscribers were over 18 and that his website and social media pages had an adult look and feel to them.

With regard to the content of the ad itself, Diageo stated that the ad was designed to appeal to a stylish, sophisticated and affluent mature audience, with the adult appeal conveyed by casting, setting, music and the overall tone of the ad. They noted that the setting was sombre and that the mood of the reunion was mature, with the characters arriving in vintage vehicles, and that these elements would appeal to a mature audience.

Clearcast stated that they had considered the potential for concerns around Beckham's appearance in an alcohol ad for the reasons raised by the complainant and, noting his Sainsbury's Active Kids and UNICEF work, had therefore asked Diageo to explain why they believed this didn't suggest a strong appeal to children. They provided Diageo's explanation which, in the case of Sainsbury's Active Kids, primarily noted that the campaign was aimed at parents to encourage them to collect vouchers for schools and spend time on activities with their children. As above, they stated that Beckham was chosen specifically because of his appeal to parents in his role as an ex-athlete and father. Diageo had also explained to Clearcast that, although UNICEF worked to protect the rights of children, Beckham's role was to raise awareness and advocate on UNICEF's behalf, through activities such as meeting with the Prime Minister. They stated that UNICEF campaigns were aimed at an adult audience and contained difficult messages. Clearcast also provided an overview of Beckham's work over 2013 and 2014, noting his business activities and media appearances, which they considered substantiated his strong appeal to adults. Clearcast stated their firm belief that Beckham had a primary adult appeal, and that his previous career and current campaigns did not demonstrate that he had strong appeal to children or was likely to be followed by them. They stated that, although his work with UNICEF and Sainsbury's benefitted children, these were targeted at adults, and that the information supplied in relation to his current activities and public exposure was sufficient to demonstrate that he no longer had strong appeal to under 18s.

2. & 3. Diageo stated that the ads depicted a group of friends individually travelling to the Scottish Highlands in order to spend a weekend together and that it showed them travelling from faraway places to arrive at the lodge house. They said that it was clear how close the friends were by the fond looks exchanged upon their arrival, which was the first interaction before any alcohol was shown. Diageo stated that the characters were shown arriving with large bags to clearly indicate that they would be staying overnight (or longer), reinforcing the idea of old friends meeting up to spending time together. They noted that the characters were shown changing into evening attire and raising a toast in a similar way to a wedding or other significant event, but that there was no suggestion that any of the guests were being forced to consume alcohol or were under pressure to join the toast, nor that a refusal to drink would be a sign of weakness.

Diageo noted that the ads ended with different snapshots from the group's previous reunions demonstrating the longstanding nature of their friendship. They stated that the characters were not consuming alcohol in any of these locations and neither was any alcohol present. They asserted that these snapshots demonstrated that alcohol was not a key component of any individual's social success or acceptance, the group's personal relationships or their social events. Diageo stated that it was evident from the ads that the strength of the group's friendship was due to the many shared experiences and travels over the years, and that the characters were all represented as being equally close and having a good time from the start. They therefore asserted that the ads clearly represented the characters as being good friends regardless of alcohol being consumed.

Clearcast, with regard to point 2 only, stated that they considered the ad to be in keeping with BCAP guidance on alcohol in TV ads, which advised that rule 19.4 was not intended to prevent the depiction of alcohol as a responsible social lubricant, but instead to prevent the suggestion that the successful outcome of a social occasion depended on or resulted from the presence or consumption of alcohol. They stated that alcohol was not presented as a key component of social success and the ad did not imply that the success of a social occasion was dependent on the presence or consumption of alcohol. They said that the introduction of the product into the narrative did not transform the social occasion or change the interaction among the group of friends, but was merely depicted to be their drink of choice at the gathering.

YouTube, with regard to point 3 only, stated that the video did not violate their Advertising Policies and that they were not aware of any complaints received in relation to the video. They stated that under the terms and conditions agreed to by advertisers it remained the responsibility of advertiser to abide by applicable laws and regulations, including the CAP Code.


1. Not upheld

The ASA considered that, as a recently-retired footballer, David Beckham would be likely to hold general appeal for some children. Nonetheless, we noted that he had not played for a UK club in the last decade and was therefore unlikely to have particular resonance for children on the basis of his sporting career alone, or have strong appeal on that basis. We understood that Alcohol Concern specifically noted that Beckham had won a Nickelodeon Kid's Choice Sports 'Legend' award earlier this year, and that they felt this demonstrated a strong appeal to children. However, we also understood that the award's recipient was chosen by Nickelodeon, rather than being voted on by children, and that the award was primarily an American one. We considered that, although it suggested the potential for some appeal to children, the opinion of the largely-American Nickelodeon channel was insufficient to demonstrate that Beckham held strong appeal to children in the UK.

We also noted that Beckham had been prominently involved in promoting Sainsbury's Active Kids and UNICEF campaigns, but considered that these were unlikely to contribute particularly to his appeal to children or to indicate that he had a strong appeal to them. We noted that Beckham was widely known for his commercial and ambassadorial roles, as well as his family, albeit with football as the reason for his initial fame. We considered that, although Beckham's early career would have meant that he held strong appeal to children at that time, the shift from football to commercial ventures, as well as his move to play in foreign leagues and subsequent retirement from football, meant that he was no longer likely to hold such appeal to children in 2014. Because we considered that David Beckham did not have strong appeal to children and was not likely to be a figure whose example children would follow, we concluded that the ad had not breached the Code.

We investigated ad (a) under BCAP Code rules 1.2 (Social Responsibility) and 19.15.2 (Alcohol), but did not find it in breach.

2 & 3. Not upheld

The ASA noted that the whisky was shown as part of a social occasion and was one aspect of the theme of the ad. However, we considered that the preamble to the photograph scene demonstrated a well-established friendship and sense of ease between the characters that was already present before the drink was poured. We also noted that the only photograph in which the drink was shown was the present-day image and that the other scenes showed the history of the group's friendship without the presence or consumption of alcohol. We understood that one of the complainants had concerns about the use of the word 'Club' in the brand name as depicted in the ad. Although we noted that the end frame of the ad also included the word 'welcome' and that this carried an allusion to social activity, we considered that consumers would recognise the use of the word 'Club' as a reference to the name of the brand rather than a suggestion that purchasing or consuming the product would lead to social success or belonging. In light of these elements we concluded that the ad did not imply that drinking was a key component of social success or acceptance, the success of a personal relationship or social event, or that refusal was a sign of weakness.

We investigated ad (a) under BCAP Code rules 1.2 (Social Responsibility) and 19.4 (Alcohol), and ad (b) under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 1.3 (Social Responsibility) and 18.3 (Alcohol), but did not find them in breach.


No further action required.

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