Summary of Council decision:

Two issues were investigated, of which one was Not upheld and one was Upheld.

Ad description

A TV ad for Captain Morgan, showed a series of scenes based on the adventurous lifestyle of a buccaneer.

In one shot, the buccaneer threw his hat into the air, which landed on a table where two women were sitting. One of the women looked at him admiringly. The next scene showed him riding a horse and carriage through the square, whilst people waved and cheered as he rode past. He was then shown at a banquet table, where he subtly pushed a glass off the table. Following this, he was shown in a dark cave having discovered some treasure. The ad then cut back to the scene that featured the two women at the table. The buccaneer stood and smiled in front of the woman who had previously looked in admiration.

He was shown stripping off his shirt on his ship and then emerging from the water while his crew cheered him. The final shots showed the crew and the townspeople raising their glasses or arms to celebrate his accomplishments.

Throughout the ad a voice-over stated “Make no mistake about that man on the bottle of Captain Morgan. That man was a legend. A hero, history remembers. A liver of life. A man who led with his heart and showed his crew a life more legendary. Captain Morgan. Live like the captain.”

The ad ended with the on-screen text “Captain Morgan … LIVE LIKE THE CAPTAIN… DRINK RESPONSIBLY CAPTAIN’S ORDERS! ... for the facts”.


The complainant challenged whether the ad:

1. implied that drinking alcohol was a key component of social success; and

2. linked alcohol with daring, toughness and aggressive behaviour.


1. Diageo Great Britain Ltd (Diageo) stated the ad focused on bringing to life the story of the real Sir Henry Morgan, a genuine seventeenth-century buccaneer, after whom the Captain Morgan brand was named. They commented that the aim of the advert was to show consumers a series of short clips illustrating different snapshots of Sir Henry Morgan’s life from the seventeenth century, in a way that was relevant to people today. All the scenes were set in a stylised historic way so as to educate consumers that Captain Morgan was based on a genuine historical buccaneer character and illustrated the brand’s heritage in a positive and responsible light. All scenes were highly stylised and were contextualised within the historical narrative of the advert, and were far-removed from the “real-life” of today.

Diageo did not believe that the advert in anyway implied that drinking alcohol was a key component of social success or that the success of a social occasion was dependent upon the presence or consumption of alcohol. They pointed out that the depiction of alcohol in the ad was minimal and incidental to the main narrative. The ad focused on different scenes from Captain Morgan’s life as a buccaneer and most of the scenes generally did not involve any social interaction between the Captain and others. The ad contained only a few scenes where drinks were shown and did not appear until towards the end of the ad. The focus then shifted away from the “action scenes” towards the town folk and/or crew who were shown celebrating Captain Morgan for his achievements in his capacity as a historical leader of that time. Diageo stated that during most of those celebratory scenes, neither Captain Morgan nor a significant number of the characters had a glass in their hands, including the closing scene. The Captain was shown celebrating victory with all of his crew, who all simply raised their arms in the air. Diageo highlighted that at no point during the ad were any of the characters seen consuming alcohol.

Diageo considered it was obvious from the outset that the Captain was a famous character through his achievements as a buccaneer, shown by the reaction of the townspeople to his various acts. Any popularity that was apparent was simply a result of the Captain’s accomplishments and his charismatic personality rather than as a result of drinking alcohol, which was at most, an incidental part of any of the celebratory scenes rather than alcohol being the focus for the gathering.

Outside of the celebratory scenes, Diageo stated that the Captain was only seen holding a glass on one occasion involving a single scene with an older woman, and at another point gently tipped an empty glass off the table in a playful gesture with the only witness being a dog.

Clearcast responded stating they had seen a number of edits from Diageo, which they considered raised the concerns noted by the complainants. However, after a number of amendments they were satisfied with the final edit. Clearcast pointed out that the ad no longer depicted any character drinking until the very end of the ad, which they considered did not imply drinking alcohol was a key component to social success, but rather it was gained before drinking.

2. In relation to the ad linking alcohol with daring, tough or aggressive behaviour, Diageo commented it showed montages that did not contain or suggest any such behaviour. The actions demonstrated the Captain’s skills as a buccaneer and were intentionally chosen to avoid any suggestion of daring or aggressive conduct. In one scene, by nature of being a ship’s captain, he was depicted as a leader, on-board his ship and emerging from the sea. He was also shown in control of riding a horse and carriage, and in a manner in keeping with the time. Those acts, Diageo considered, were not daring or dangerous. They commented that they took care to ensure those scenes did not feature any alcohol and were unconnected with any alcohol consumption to avoid them being portrayed as potentially dangerous if carried out after consuming alcohol.

Diageo pointed out that the scenes where the Captain was in the sea and riding the horse and carriage, were featured before any drinks were shown, and the few images of drinks featured much later in the ad were contextualised in celebratory settings. They considered that the advert was clearly a montage of different scenes, representing snapshots from different times in the Captain’s life, which acted as a break between alcohol and the Captain’s actions.

Whilst many of the scenes were conducted with a sense of humour reflecting the Captain’s playful and light-hearted personality, Diageo believed there was nothing to suggest that alcohol enhanced the Captain’s skills as a buccaneer. Furthermore, they considered that the Captain’s demeanour and actions were confident and fun, which were very different from daring, tough or aggressive behaviour.

Clearcast believed that because the primary character was a buccaneer, a certain element of creativity could be had. The character being a pirate was one regularly linked with rum, which they believed people would understand. Clearcast felt that with the surroundings and character in mind, the scenes were within reason, presenting an image of what people associated with pirates. Again, Clearcast highlighted that no alcohol was consumed until the end of the ad, and therefore, alcohol was not linked to the buccaneer’s daring behaviour or his toughness.


1. Not upheld

The ASA acknowledged that the ad featured scenes where drinks were shown. However, they were predominantly placed at the end of the ad, after the buccaneer’s adventurous and extravagant lifestyle was portrayed through a montage of shots. Although we noted one scene where the buccaneer tipped his glass off the table at a banquet, we did not consider that this linked alcohol with the buccaneer’s popularity, but rather highlighted his playful and potentially provocative behaviour.

We noted that, while the earlier scenes depicted the buccaneer’s popularity amongst the townspeople and crew, he was not shown with a drink. We also noted that, at the end of the ad, there were a number of shots of the buccaneer, his crew members and townspeople raising a drink in their hands or simply raising their arms. We considered that this followed on from the earlier scenes and portrayed a celebration of the buccaneer’s achievements and bravery.

In light of the above, we considered that the buccaneer’s popularity was gained through his heroic and successful accomplishments, and not through the consumption of alcohol, which was depicted as a way of celebrating the moment. Therefore, we concluded that the ad did not imply that drinking alcohol was a key component of social success and for that reason did not breach the Code.

On this point we investigated the ad under BCAP Code rule  19.4 19.4 Advertisements must not imply that drinking alcohol is a key component of social success or acceptance or that refusal is a sign of weakness. Advertisements must not imply that the success of a social occasion depends on the presence or consumption of alcohol.  (Alcohol) but did not find it in breach.

2. Upheld

We noted that some shots in the ad highlighted the buccaneer’s playful and on occasion provocative personality, but also noted that he was shown driving a carriage at speed, searching a cave for treasure and emerging from the sea having apparently dived from his ship. We considered that those actions and the settings shown in the ad would be associated with buccaneers and seafarers renowned for drinking rum, and for their disregard for authority and the well-being of themselves and others. Therefore, we concluded that, the depiction of the character and his actions, especially when placed alongside the slogan “LIVE LIKE THE CAPTAIN”, in an ad for rum, linked alcohol with daringness and toughness.

On this point the ad breached BCAP Code rule  19.5 19.5 Advertisements must not link alcohol with daring, toughness, aggression or unruly, irresponsible or antisocial behaviour.  (Alcohol).


The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Diageo Great Britain Ltd that their future advertising must not link alcohol with daringness or toughness.


19.4     19.5    

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