Company: Irwell Works Brewery on behalf of Bacup & Rawtenstall Grammar School
Final Decision: 12 June 2014
Considered under the 4th Edition of the Code.
To commemorate 100 years of teaching and school history/heritage, Bacup and Rawtenstall Grammar School commissioned bottles of an alcoholic drink with its school name, logo and branding upon the label and this alcoholic drink has been promoted, advertised and sold within its school environment – a school environment comprising mostly of school children…..
…The entire point and purpose of a school associating its brand with a product is to create and promote interest, attraction and appeal therefore I believe the decision taken by Bacup and Rawtenstall Grammar School is clearly in breach of Rule 3.2 (h) A drink, its packaging or promotion should not have a particular appeal to under-18s……
…Equally, school and alcohol is incongruous; therefore I believe to blatantly and explicitly associate their school brand with an alcoholic drink within the school environment is not age appropriate and significantly breaches the promise the school has given to look after the welfare and wellbeing of each child and safeguard them from harmful influences.
A member of the public.
Under Code paragraph 3.2(h)
A drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way have a particular appeal to under 18s.
The company’s submission
The school explained that the Centenary Beer was commissioned to commemorate 100 Years of the school, to be sold at two centenary events: a Fireworks Spectacular evening to mark exactly one hundred years of history and a Centenary Reunion for alumni of the school. Both events were outside of school hours with Temporary Event Notices approved by Rossendale Borough Council and strict monitoring of alcohol in designated areas.
The school explained that in its view the beer did not have a particular appeal to under-18s as it was aimed at real ale connoisseurs and was not an alcopop. Further to this, the packaging was not attractive to students and there were no appealing images on the label that would entice students to drink the product.
The school clarified that the product was only ever marketed to adults: for the two events at which the beer was sold, only the Fireworks Spectacular event was advertised using posters in School. A copy of this poster was provided as part of the school’s response, and it made no reference to alcohol, instead citing “fairground rides, entertainment, delicious food and spectacular entertainment.” Finally, only one email was sent to parents using the school email system to ensure that only parents received the communication. The email to parents which advertised the fireworks event mentioned that there would be “fairground attractions and stalls ranging from Krispy Kreme doughnuts to burgers, candy floss and, for the connoisseurs, our very own BRGS Centenary Beer.” The school concluded that they had only ever marketed the beer to over-18s and were continually driven by their ‘duty of care’ to safeguard children.
Irwell Works Brewery supported the school’s decision to produce and sell the beer. It said the label was designed using images supplied by the school and approved before labelling commenced. It went on to say that that it had understood that the beer was only to be distributed as a souvenir and that the product would only appear at an event where parents, teachers and invited guests (all adults) would have access to it after 6pm when the school was officially closed. Irwell Works Brewery had ensured that the beer was delivered in an unmarked van and used tarpaulin to cover the bottles while the area was screened off using free standing units.
The Panel’s assessment
The Panel began by acknowledging the procedures the school and brewery had put in place to ensure that the alcohol was not seen by pupils when it was delivered for the events. They also acknowledged that the school had not intended for the alcohol to have a particular appeal to under-18s and had deliberately used the school emblem, and not images, for this reason.
The Panel considered that a school emblem was used by a school to instil a sense of loyalty and identity amongst pupils. This would still apply even when the emblem appeared on other products. The Panel went on to say the fact the product label featured the words ‘grammar school’ immediately associated that product with a child, and any school, or school-related material, was likely to have a particular resonance with under-18s.
Furthermore, while acknowledging that the school had taken steps to conceal the product from the pupils during school hours, it could not control children seeing the product if it was taken home by a parent. The Panel took into consideration the points made by the school in its subsequent response. Despite these, and in light of all the information presented, the Panel concluded that because a school was likely to have a particular resonance with under-18s it would have a particular appeal to them, and consequently upheld the complaint under Code paragraph 3.2(h).