Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the Advertising Standards Authority.

Rule 18.14 states “Marketing communications must not be likely to appeal particularly to people under 18, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture. They should not feature or portray real or fictitious characters who are likely to appeal particularly to people under 18 in a way that might encourage the young to drink. People shown drinking or playing a significant role (see rule 18.16) should not be shown behaving in an adolescent or juvenile manner.” Marketers can read more about ‘particular appeal’ generally here.

In terms of using celebrities, influencers or public figures in ads, marketers must be cautious, and think about whether that person is likely to be seen as a role model by the young.  

In the past, complaints about traditional "celebrities" in ads have been relatively rare (complaints had tended to focus more on general ‘particular appeal’ in ads, rather than a specific celebrity/character). Historically, the ASA has upheld complaints about using pop singers Nicole Scherzinger and Leona Lewis in an alcohol ad (Maxxium UK Ltd, 12 December 2012), and also not upheld a complaint about using music artist Plan B (Heineken UK Ltd, 19 September 2012), based on the appeal at the time of the rulings. It’s worth bearing in mind that naturally, the people who appeal to children will change over time, and celebrities who were once considered of “particular appeal” to children may no longer be in the present day (and vice versa). However, marketers should be able to demonstrate that a celebrity does not or no longer holds appeal when using them in their advertising.

Due to a rise in the use of “influencers” on social media, CAP is seeing a marked increase in advertisers wishing to use influencers in alcohol ads as opposed to traditional “celebrities”. However, in the event of an investigation, marketers are reminded that influencers will be treated similarly to celebrities by the ASA – that is, the ASA will consider whether the influencer appeals particularly to children
Our guidance on Age Restricted Ads Online contains more information about how to target appropriately on social media - however, it's important to note that alcohol ads must not appeal particularly to children regardless of whether the ad is appropriately targeted.

Marketers should not use celebrities, influencers, or any other individual to promote their product if they are under the age of 25. See Alcohol: Featuring Under 25s for more on this.

See also Alcohol: General, Alcohol: Enhanced sporting, mental and physical capabilities,  Alcohol: Juvenile or adolescent behaviour, Alcohol: The Use of Cartoons, Animals and Characters and Alcohol: Targeting and Appeal to Under 18s.

More on