Final Decision: 20 January 2009
Considered under the 4th Edition of the Code.
“The name ‘Speedball’ is entirely inappropriate for an alcoholic drink as it is the name given to the extremely dangerous practice of combining heroin and crack cocaine to provide both a stimulant and sedative effect. The product’s label describes the drink as a ‘class A ale’ – another clear reference to illicit drugs. The company’s website (www.brewdog.com) goes on to use terms like ‘up-down’ and ‘happy-sad’ and the beer contains ‘a vicious cocktail of active ingredients’.”
Alcohol Focus Scotland
Under Code paragraph 3.2(c) A drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way suggest any association with, acceptance of, or allusion to, illicit drugs.
Under Code paragraph 3.2(f) A drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way encourage illegal, irresponsible or immoderate consumption, such as drink-driving, binge-drinking or drunkenness.
Under Code paragraph 3.2(j) A drink, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not in any direct or indirect way suggest that the product can enhance mental or physical capabilities.
The company’s submission
The company acknowledged that the name referred to a drug-taking activity but argued that it was appropriate to this product. This was because the product contained mild sedatives and mild stimulants. They maintained that the causes of alcohol and drug misuse were far deeper rooted than product names and suggested that by alluding to drug misuse in this way, they might even highlight this issue and help prevent it.
The Panel’s assessment
The Panel considered that the challenged claims clearly sought to present the product as akin to an illicit and dangerous drug. It believed this encouraged people to drink the product primarily for its psychoactive properties and considered this approach to be grossly irresponsible. It was concerned that the blurring of alcohol and illicit drugs in this way not only fostered inappropriate attitudes to drinking but furthermore trivialised drug misuse. It found the product’s name, packaging and website in breach of Code paragraph 3.2(c).
The Panel considered that while the packaging and website were clearly in breach of the Code as stated above, the challenged claims did not necessarily encourage immoderate consumption nor suggest that the product would enhance mental or physical performance (though it clearly implied that the former would be affected). Accordingly, the Panel did not find the product’s packaging or website to be in breach of Code paragraphs 3.2(f) or 3.2(j).
Action by Company
The company said they would change the name of the product to Dogma.