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Cronk Y Voddy sponsorship of TT rider Andrew Dudgeon

Company: Seven Kingdom Distillery
Breach: YES

Complainant: Kella Distillers Limited

Complaint summary:

1. Sponsorship of TT rider Andrew Dudgeon by Cronk Y Voddy Vodka

“They do…according to their website www.cronkyvoddy.com sponsor a rider:

To coincide with the launch of Cronk Y Voddy Vodka – The Spirit of the Races, we have sponsored local TT Rider Andrew Dudgeon! Andrew is a local lad and A FAST MAN, winning the Junior TT in 2016 by 4 seconds. Andrew will be wearing our Biking Viking logo on his helmet, and his leathers in this year’s TT and MGP races!

Therefore… the Producer meets the requirement for sponsoring an individual in the races for the purposes of a…complaint under 3.7”.

2. Licence agreement to use the official TT races logo

“Seven Kingdom have been granted a licence to use the official TT Logo by the Department of Enterprise, Isle of Man Government.

The front label on Crony (sic) y Voddy states under “TT Isle of Man” Logo “CRONK Y VODDY ISLE OF MAN VODKA THE SPIRIT OF THE RACES”

A person who reads these two statements may, I believe, reasonably conclude that Cronk Y Voddy is in some way associated with the Isle of Man TT Races.

I believe the Portman Group Rules for Responsible Alcohol Sponsorship state:

3.7 There must be no implication that bravado, aggressive, violent, dangerous or anti-social behaviour is advocated or condoned by a drinks company or brand

The Isle of Man TT Races is known as the fastest, most difficult, road circuit in the world, and the most dangerous”.

Decision:

Under Code paragraph 3.2(b)

There must be no implication that bravado, aggressive, violent dangerous or anti-social behaviour is advocated or condoned by a drinks company or brand.

UPHELD

The company’s submission:

The company first addressed the complainant’s assertion that its sponsorship of TT rider Andrew Dudgeon was problematic due to the inherent association with dangerous behaviour. The company explained that Andrew Dudgeon was a privateer rider that did not receive any major income from sponsorship. The company explained that the decision to sponsor Andrew Dudgeon was initiated by a social media post on Facebook in which Andrew Dudgeon appealed for sponsorship partners. The company clarified that the sponsorship was an informal arrangement with no legal agreement in place between themselves and Andrew Dudgeon. The company explained that the sponsorship money was provided directly from a shareholder of the company, along with a small number of hats for the TT races which encompassed the entirety of the arrangement.

The company stated that in comparison to other alcohol producers’ sponsorship of the TT races, they had minimal involvement and therefore did not believe that their current arrangement was in breach of the Sponsorship Code of Practice.

The company then addressed the complainant’s view that the TT Logo on the product packaging created an association between the product and the dangerous aspect of the TT races. The producer confirmed that the company licensed the TT logo, and its use on the product packaging, from the Department of Enterprise, Isle of Man Government (DoE). As part of this agreement, the DoE required all proposed advertisements, marketing and promotional materials to be sent to the Department for review and as a result, had approved the use of the logo on the product packaging. The company stated that they did not believe that the Sponsorship Code prohibited alcohol producers from sponsoring motorsports. The company stressed that the association between its product and the TT races was an invaluable part of their brand. The company also stated that there were numerous examples of precedent set by alcohol producers that sponsored other categories of motor sports.

Finally, the company stated that their brand website had a dedicated section which promoted a don’t drink and drive message to mitigate any problematic association between its product and the TT races.

The Panel’s assessment:

The Panel began by discussing the producer’s decision to sponsor a motorised sport and concluded that such sponsorship was not in itself problematic under the Code.

The Panel discussed the sponsorship arrangement between the producer and rider Andrew Dudgeon. The Panel noted the use of the company’s logo on Andrew Dudgeon’s helmet and leathers and concluded that whilst this did create an association between the brand and the TT races, the association did not imply that the brand advocated or condoned dangerous behaviour.

The Panel noted that the company had not confirmed the age of Andrew Dudgeon in its response to the complaint but through their own research had learned that he was 28 years of age.

The Panel then considered the language used by the company to promote the TT race sponsorship on its website which included the phrase “that’s what we’re trying to encapsulate with this spirit. Open air, speed, danger, and sheer enjoyment”. The Panel were concerned that the language used on the company’s website created a direct link between the danger of the races and the product which was inappropriate in the context of alcohol sponsorship. In addition to this, the Panel considered the company’s response which referenced a section on its website dedicated to a don’t drink and drive message. The Panel stated that producers sponsoring driving or motor events should ensure that reasonable effort was made to promote responsible drinking behaviour. In this instance, the Panel noted that whilst the website did include a don’t drink and drive message this was separate to the information about their sponsorship of Andrew Dudgeon and was placed at the bottom of the website, below information about their distillery tours, restaurant and stockists.

The Panel considered the overall impression conveyed by the content of the website and concluded that the language used on the website to promote the taste of their product and how this was directly linked to the sponsorship of Andrew Dudgeon, the TT races implied that the producer condoned dangerous behaviour and accordingly upheld the complaint under Code rule 3.7.

Action by the Company:

The company agreed to amend its website text and to place more emphasis on promoting responsible drinking behaviour.