London, 5 May 2023: A complaint made against four Four Loko drinks, which suggested that the word ‘loko’ in its name caused serious or widespread offence, has not been upheld by the alcohol industry’s Independent Complaints Panel (Panel). A copy of the full decision is available here.
The complaint was against Four Loko Blue, Four Loko Fruit Punch, Four Loko Gold, and Four Loko Sour Apple. The complainant suggested that the name was phonetically similar to ‘loco’ in Spanish, translating to ‘crazy’ in English and caused offence on mental health grounds. The Panel had previously considered Four Loko in 2014 and, in the absence of any new evidence, agreed the case would only be considered under Code rule 3.3 – causing serious or widespread offence – as it had not been part of the Code in 2014.
The Panel considered the 2021 Ofcom and Ipsos Mori study on offensive language1 which did not include either ‘loco’ or ‘crazy’ as words which were likely to cause offence. The Panel also noted that the Ofcom report highlighted the importance of context when determining whether something could cause serious or widespread offence. The Panel discussed the context of the packaging and noted that the cans had a muted design and included factual text, none of which referenced mental health or ‘crazy’ and ‘loco’ behaviour. Considering the overall impression of the packaging, and the absence of any elements which would emphasise the complainant’s concerns about the name, the Panel concluded that Four Loko did not cause serious or widespread offence, and the complaint was not upheld under Code rule 3.3.
The complaint was raised by a consultant on behalf of Corinthian Brands Ltd.
Commenting on the decision, the Chair of the Independent Complaints Panel, Nicola Williams, said: “The Code of Practice ensures that alcohol marketing should not cause serious or widespread offence, particularly anything that could be considered discriminatory, derogatory or demeaning. However, the Panel has not found Four Loko to be in breach of this rule and has not caused serious or widespread offence.”
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Notes to editors
- Ofcom and Ipsos Mori study entitled ‘Attitudes to potentially offensive language and gestures on TV and Radio. 2021: https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0021/225336/offensive-language-summary-report.pdf
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- The Portman Group was formed in 1989. It is the alcohol industry regulator and social responsibility body. It has over 160 Code signatories from producers, retailers and membership bodies.
- The Portman Group is funded by 17 member companies: Asahi UK Ltd; Aston Manor Cider; Bacardi; Brown-Forman; Budweiser Brewing Group UK&I; Campari; C&C; Diageo GB; Edrington UK; Heineken UK; Mark Anthony Brands International; Mast-JäegermeisterUK; Molson Coors Beverage Company; Pernod Ricard UK; SHS Drinks; Thatchers’; and Treasury Wine Estates.
- The Code of Practice for the Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks was first published in 1996. In 2021, we celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Code. The Code seeks to ensure that alcohol is promoted in a socially responsible way, only to those aged 18 and over, and in a way that does not appeal particularly to those who are vulnerable. The Code has helped create an industry that works effectively within the context of a self-regulatory model, while encouraging design, innovation and creativity. This has been done in an effective, responsive and inexpensive way.
- Effectively – over 170 products have been amended or removed from the market. Many hundreds more have been helped to adhere to the Code before appearing on shelves through the support of the Advisory Service;
- Responsively – there have been five updates to the Code over 25 years responding to changes in public attitudes and expanding its reach; all without recourse to Government or Parliamentary time;
- Inexpensively – the leading members of the industry are currently funding the model for all to be protected at no cost to the public purse.