Common Standards for Commercial Communication of Spirit Drinks

November 4, 2010


The rules in this document are applicable to the advertising and commercial communication of spirit and mixed drinks and substantiate and supplement the general standards of the National Ethical Rules for Advertising and Commercial Communication and have to be interpreted and applied along with these. 


The alcoholic beverages are beer, wine and spirit drinks. The spirits drinks are products with alcohol content above 15 % ABV. There are also mixed drinks, comprising non-alcoholic and spirit drinks. As a rule, these mixed drinks are low in alcohol content.

The present Common standards regulate the commercial communication of spirit and mixed drinks, hereinafter commonly referred as “Beverages”.

 Purpose of these Common Standards

When responsibly consumed, the alcoholic drinks are enjoyable and are an element of the balanced lifestyle of the today consumers. It is however recognized that excessive or irresponsible consumption of Beverages may have  negative consequencesfor both the individual and the society. The purpose of these Common Standards is to ensure that commercial communications do not encourage or condone excessive consumption or misuse of any kind.

 1. Misuse

1.1 Commercial Communications should not encourage or condone excessive or irresponsible consumption, nor present abstinence or moderation in any negative way.

1.2 Commercial Communications should not show people who appear to be drunk or in any way imply that drunkenness is acceptable.

1.3 Commercial Communications should not suggest any association with violent, aggressive, illegal, dangerous or antisocial behavior.

1.4 Commercial Communications should avoid any association with, acceptance of, or allusion to drug culture or illicit drugs.

2. Minors

2.1 Commercial Communications should not be aimed at minors nor show minors consuming Beverages.

2.2 Commercial Communications should only promote Beverages in print and broadcast media for which at least 70% of the audience are reasonably expected to be adults 18 years or older. They should not promote Beverages in print and broadcast media, or events for which more than 30% of the audience is known or reasonably expected to be minors.

2.3 Commercial Communications should not use models and actors who are not at least 25 years of age.

2.4 Commercial Communications should not use objects, images, styles, symbols, colors, music and characters (either real or fictitious, including cartoon figures or celebrities such as sporting heroes) of primary appeal to children or adolescents.

2.5 Commercial Communications should not use brand identification such as names, logos, games, game equipment or other items of primary appeal to minors.

3. Drinking and Driving

Commercial Communications should not suggest that the consumption of Beverages is acceptable before or whilst driving motor vehicles of any kind, including speed boats, jet-skis, snow-mobiles and airplanes.

4. Hazardous Activities, Workplace & Recreation

Commercial Communications should not suggest that the consumption of Beverages is acceptable before or whilst operating potentially dangerous machinery, or with undertaking any potentially hazardous recreational or work-related activity.

5. Health Aspects

5.1 Commercial Communications should not claim that Beverages may have therapeutic properties and that their consumption may help preventing, treating or curing any human disease.

5.2 Where permitted by law, Commercial Communications using truthful and accurate factual statements about carbohydrate, calories or other nutrient content may be appropriate in some circumstances.

6. Pregnancy

Commercial Communication should not show pregnant women drinking or aim at women who are pregnant.

7. Alcohol Content

7.1. Commercial Communications should not create any confusion as to the nature and strength of Beverages.

7.2. The Advertisers will not use identical or similar advertising and commercial communication to promote different types of alcoholic Beverages.

7.3. Commercial Communications may present information for consumers on alcoholic strength but should not emphasize high alcoholic strength as a dominant theme in any brand communications materials. On the other hand, messages may not imply that consuming Beverages of low alcohol content will avoid abuse.

8. Performance

Commercial Communications should not create the impression that consumption of beverages enhances mental ability or physical performance or has an energizing effect, e.g. when engaging in activities requiring concentration in order to be safely executed.

9. Social Success

Commercial Communications should not suggest that the consumption of Beverages is a requirement for social acceptance or success.

10. Sexual Success

10.1 Under no circumstances should Commercial Communications be unethical, offend against generally prevailing standards of taste and decency or otherwise impugn human dignity and integrity.

10.2 Commercial Communications should not suggest that the consumption of Beverages enhances sexual capabilities, attractiveness or leads to sexual relations.


All Commercial Communications must be in keeping with both the letter and the spirit of all national applicable laws, regulations and self-regulatory codes of practice.


The general aim of these Common Standards is not to replace existing national systems, but rather to provide general criteria that should be met by national self-regulatory mechanisms, sector and company codes. Complaints based on / concerning an infraction of the Common Standards are dealt with by the member organizations of the European Advertising Standards Alliance (EASA), also called Self Regulations Organizations or other appropriate organizations at national level. These national organizations are best placed to deal with complaints, as only they will be able to assess and understand fully the national context and local sensitivities.


The Common Standards are further clarified and explained in the attached Annexes that include specific guidance:

■ for Point of Sales promotions (Annex 1) and

■ for Internet, digital and mobile marketing media (Annex 2)

■ for Sponsorship (Annex 3)



These Guidelines for Responsible Promotions are an integral part of the Common Standards for Commercial Communications. They apply in addition to the Common Standards and should therefore be read in conjunction.

Promotions are an appropriate and valuable marketing tool to:

• enhance customer awareness of a product/brand;

• showcase a new product/brand.

As with all commercial communications, promotions should

• be developed, implemented and managed responsibly;

• never be aimed at underage drinkers;

• never encourage violent, aggressive, dangerous, anti social or illegal behavior, drink driving or alcohol misuse;

• never be demeaning to any group in society or otherwise offend accepted standards of taste and decency;

• be in full compliance with the prevailing laws, regulations and self-regulatory codes.

Given the complexity and structure of the beverage alcohol industry and the restaurant, retail, bar and hospitality business throughout Europe, the manufacturer whose product(s) is/are part of a promotional activity may not always be involved in or even aware of that particular activity. This of course affects the degree of control – if any – the manufacturer can exert over the content and tone of such activities. The operator and/or owner of the venue where the promotional activity takes place are important parties for the implementation of promotional activities.

Therefore it is in the interest of the industry and in the interest of the society as a whole that beverage alcohol products (hereafter referred to as Beverages) are promoted responsibly. The National Council for Selfregulation  will cooperate with  APITSD to ensure that these Guidelines are fully understood and communicated widely in sectors such as:

• retail

• hotels / restaurants / cafes / bars / nightclubs / discotheques

• tourism boards

• educational bodies and institutes from the HORECA industry

• promotion agencies and promotion suppliers

• events producers and organizers

Types of promotions

Promotional activities of Beverages can take place broadly in the following types of settings:

• in store (small shops, supermarkets, hypermarkets)

• on-premise (licensed establishments)

• third party events

• in-house (e.g. production facility tours)

• own events in non-traditional locations (e.g. brand-owner sports event; brand’s music or dance festivals, train stations, on the beach, old industrial sites, spontaneous gatherings/events organized via sms)

• private homes of consumers

As circumstances and settings greatly vary, there is not one rule for everyone.These Guidelines, based on the provisions of the Common Standards, aim to provide practical tips on a number of aspects concerning promotional activities:

• setting

• content

• tone
• approach

• audience (age) profile.

These Guidelines cover both the actual activity and the supporting materials.

Guidelines for Point-of-Sales promotions

Basic Principles

a. There should be no form of discrimination of participation on the grounds of race, sexual orientation, religion, political inclination etc.

b. Avoid images, messages or activities which are likely to be considered gratuitously offensive or demeaning.

c. Ensure that the price for the Beverage(s) is/are known to all consumers.

d. Ensure that the alcoholic nature / alcohol content of the promoted Beverage(s) is/are known to consumers when the promotional activity is being started.

1. Misuse

a. Never encourage irresponsible and excessive consumption of Beverages.

b. Do not use any “drinking games” that may encourage excessive or irresponsible consumption, such as activities which involve either “speed incentives” or drinking an excessive amount of Beverages within a short period of time.

c. Do not serve consumers who are or appear to be uncontrollably excited, drunk, aggressive or engage in anti-social behaviour. Ensure your staff is fully briefed on how to manage consumers who appear drunk, aggressive or anti-social.

d. Do not exercise any pressure on people not willing to participate.

e. Do not act negatively towards people who are not interested in the promotion.

f. It is good practice to display a clearly visible and appropriate responsible drinking message.

g. Ensure none of the aspects of the activity encourages excessive or irresponsible consumption (content, language, behaviour of promotional teams, price/timing etc).

h. If a promotion or incentive includes a multi-purchase, consumers are not encouraged to drink over the national recommendation for sensible drinking.

i. Promotional activities and messages should never encourage consumers to engage in risky or potentially dangerous activities or behaviour.

2. Minors

a. Never engage in promotional activities inviting people under the legal purchase age to participate.

Minors can be defined for these Standards as: “Young people below 18; or higher when national legal purchase age requires”.

b. Do not allow people below the legal drinking age to participate.

c. Do not carry out the promotion at all if it is reasonably expected that more than 30%of the public will consist of people under the legal drinking age. In case of doubt,do not go ahead with the activity (please check percentages as they may vary fromcountry to country).

d. Consider using displays to inform consumers that Beverages should only be consumedby people over the legal purchase age (please see also point f under point 1 Misuse).

e. In case of doubt about the legality of the age, ask for proof of age, when appropriate (be aware of national laws and regulations regarding identity / proof of age requests).

f. Ensure that none of the aspects of the activity primarily appeal to people under thelegal drinking age (content, language, cartoons, music, celebrities etc).

g. Alcohol brands should not feature on children’s/adolescent size clothing.

3. Drinking and Driving

a. Be particularly vigilant about the participation of consumers who may drive followingparticipation, e.g. in a supermarket tasting.

b. Consider displaying a “don’t drink and drive” message.

c. Be careful with promotions in venues closely linked with driving (e.g. highway stores/restaurants).

d. While motor vehicles can be used as prizes, great care must be taken at the awardsceremony to ensure the vehicle cannot be driven by anyone who has consumedBeverages (e.g. vehicle keys can be handed over the day after the award ceremony).

4. Hazardous Activities, Workplace & Recreation

a. Ensure that the promotion does not include or encourage a hazardous activity.

5. Health Aspects

a. Ensure that no aspects of the activity imply that the Beverage has any properties ofpreventing, treating or curing a human disease.

6. Pregnancy

Commercial Communication should not show pregnant women drinking orspecifically aim at women who are pregnant.

7. Alcohol Content

a. Ensure that participants in the promotion know that alcohol is involved.

b. Do not use drink-delivery methods / gimmicks which might confuse or mislead theconsumer as to the amount of alcohol they are consuming (e.g. alcohol sprays, vaporisers).

8. Performance

a. Do not encourage or promote drinking prior to engaging in sports.

9. Social Success

Commercial Communications should not suggest that the consumption ofBeverages is a requirement for social acceptance or success.

10. Sexual Success

10.1 Under no circumstances should Commercial Communications be unethical, offend against generally prevailing standards of taste anddecency or otherwise impugn human dignity and integrity.

10.2 Commercial Communications should not suggest that the consumptionof Beverages enhances sexual capabilities, attractiveness or leads tosexual relations.

11. Sampling

No sampling of Beverages should be offered to minors; it is allowed at licensed or private premises, trade fairs or occasions in accordance with local regulations.

It should be noted that the provisions of the Common Standards and the guidance given in this guidelines for promotions also apply to sampling, i.e. informing the consumer about what they are to sample, alcohol strength, not sampling someone who is drunk, where people are potentially participating in risky or dangerous activity or where they potentially engage in anti social behavior etc.

Under sampling the most important element is to ensure that the promotion teams are sticking to the rules; therefore we suggest to develop a training tool.

Prohibited Physical POS / Promotional items

• Promotions involving drinking vessels, gimmicks, sprays or other drink dispensing mechanisms which either

• Encourage excessive drinking

• And/or mean that consumers cannot readily tell how much alcohol they are consuming (e.g. squirt guns, AWOL machines)

• And/or mean that consumers do not have control on the amount of alcohol they are consuming, or the speed of delivery (free-pour luges, ‘dentist chairs’)

• Drinking vessels, gimmicks or drink-dispensing mechanisms with medical orpharmaceutical connotations, e.g. syringes, test tubes.

• Promotions which involve religious or other symbols and references which couldcause offence in the context of an alcohol beverage promotion.

• Sweets or children’s confectionary: no confectionary/treats that are primarilyassociated with children; adult confectionary is acceptable, liqueur chocolates, darkchocolate, if in doubt sales data should be looked at to ensure adult audience.

• Prize giveaways and games primarily appealing to underage.

• Drinking games and/or games that can encourage irresponsible consumption.

• Seduction games with a sexual content or connotation.

• Inflatable e.g. doughnuts, lilos, inflatable beds/pillows, chairs, etc likely to be used in the water should not be primarily appealing to underage.

• Clothes in children’s sizes or any reference thereto,

• Sex toys

• Branded condoms

• Hangover cures



These Guidelines for commercial communications on the Internet are an integral part of theCommon Standards for Commercial Communications of Beverages. They apply in addition to the CommonStandards and should be read in conjunction with the Common Standards. The commercial communications on the Internet play an increasinglyimportant role in the marketing mix for branded alcohol beverages as a valuable andappropriate tool to reach out to consumers of legal drinking age.

The Internet Guidelines apply to brand and product promotion websites and web pagesof Advertisers; they do not apply to websites or parts of websites with e.g.corporate, financial, investor or other information that does not promote a brand or product.

The Internet Guidelines will also apply to othercommercial communications on the Internet including:

• E-mail marketing,

• Banner ads,

• Interactive advertising,

• Search engine and blog marketing,

• Social networks/communities,

• Sponsorship, and

• Content placements on third-party websites,as well as other types of Internet marketing and content placement, paid or unpaid. Pleasesee a list with further examples for commercial communications on the Internet at the end ofthis document.

Like all internet-based marketing activities, commercial communications on the Internetrepresent an area that is still in an evolutionary development where new trends may occurrather rapidly. These Guidelines will therefore be reviewed continuously and, if and whennecessary, adapted.

The Guidelines are structured as follows:


Two type of complaints may be submitted to the National Council for Self-regulation in case of a breach of:
1. Ethical Code - related to the content (misleading, offensive, inappropriate for children etc.) of an advertisement or any other form of commercial communiaction or
2. Rules for Online Behavioral Advertising (OBA) - related to targeted at selected internet users behavioural advertising. To learn about OBA and what you can do prior to submitting an OBA complaint.
А Complaint is a formal document, claim, plea or request, concerning any form of commercial communication which gives proof of breach of the ethical rules or indicates a possible breach that requires further investigation.

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