Company: Sinclair Breweries Ltd
Final Decision: 23 December 2008
Considered under the 4th Edition of the Code.
“The name ‘Skull Splitter’ implies both violence and also the impact the strength may have on the drinker. Additionally there is a picture which could be seen to reinforce the aggressive theme”
PIPC (following audit of Code compliance)
Under Code paragraph 3.2(a)
A drink its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way have the alcoholic strength, relatively high alcohol content, or the intoxicating effect, as a dominant theme.
Under Code paragraph 3.2(b)
A drink its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way suggest any association with bravado, or with violent, aggressive, dangerous or anti-social behaviour.
The company’s submission
The company said that the brand had been in existence since the creation of the Orkney Brewery almost twenty years ago. The brand took its name from Thorfinn Einarsson, the 7th Viking Earl of Orkney, whose nickname was Skull Splitter; this was explained on the product’s back label. They maintained that the product was marketed responsibly to real ale connoisseurs and there was no evidence of the product ever being associated with harmful consumption. They submitted various press articles and letters they had received from third parties which expressed support for their brand and urged rejection of the complaint since news of the complaint investigation had leaked.
The Panel’s assessment
The Panel noted that the label featured the brand name “Skull Splitter” below an image of an aggressive-looking Viking leaning on an axe. It understood the complainant’s concern that this was inappropriately associating the product with violence and aggression and furthermore was emphasising the strength and intoxicating effect of the drink which, at 8.5% ABV, was relatively strong. The Panel, however, noted that the name and image were not gratuitous but had a relevance to the company’s heritage. It further considered that the historical theme of the label meant that the name and image were not likely to conjure up associations with modern day violence and aggression in the minds of the public. In light of this, and in the context of the nature of the product, the Panel concluded that the product’s name and packaging were not in breach of the spirit of the Code. It accordingly did not uphold the complaint.
Action by Company