Brewdog ‘not at all bothered’ by Portman ruling over Pink IPA complaint

A complaint about BrewDog’s special edition Pink IPA has been upheld by the Independent Complaints Panel because it could appeal to children.

Two complainants, both members of the public, believed that use of the phrase “Beer for Girls” on the special edition version of BrewDog’s Punk IPA — which was released to coincide with International Women’s Day — could appeal to under 18s, breaching the regulatory body’s code of practice.

In response, a Brewdog spokesperson said the team are “as bothered about this Portman Group ruling as we are any other – that is, not at all.”


Pink IPA

“Satirically” dubbed ‘Beer for Girls’, Pink IPA, which was released on Tuesday 6th March, was a rebranded version of BrewDog’s Punk IPA beer, which was intended to serve as a “clarion call to close the gender pay gap in the UK and around the world and to expose sexist marketing to women, particularly within the beer industry.”

The re-branding coincided with International Women’s Day. Alongside the launch, Brewdog also offered Punk IPA beer with a 20% discount for women at its UK bars on 8th March.

It also said that 20% of proceeds from the sale of its limited edition Pink IPA and regular Punk IPA bottles would go towards “causes that fight against gender inequality,”, including The Women’s Engineering Society, which promotes the role of women in STEM industries, and 9to5, which addresses the gender pay gap.

However, reaction to the beer’s launch was mixed.

while many were enthusiastic about the brewery’s call to close the gender pay gap and greater representation of women in STEM industries, consumers also felt the PR stunt was a “poorly placed concept.”

Despite the press release insisting that the beer is a send-up of “lazy marketing efforts targeting the female market,” many said that swapping blue labels for pink in a promotion around international Women’s Day was also a lazy marketing effort targeting the female market.


The ruling

Portman group’s complaints panel said that, while it “understood that the company had intended for the term to be used ironically, they believed that its use had been misinterpreted, which was reflected in the company’s need to post a blog after the initial launch of the product clarifying the meaning of the campaign.”

“The Panel noted that the primary definition of ‘girls’ and likewise ‘boys’ related to children and expressed concern about the use of either term on an alcoholic drink, Portman said in an emailed statement.

“They were mindful that decisions should leave a narrow margin when it comes to terms to describe children. In this case the Panel ruled that the phrase ‘beer for girls’ created, however unintentionally, a link between beer and children.”

Since the Code was introduced in 1996, the packaging and/or marketing of over 140 drinks have been found to breach its guidelines.

Secretary to the Independent Complaints Panel, John Timothy said: “The ruling by the Panel sets an important precedent around the use of the terms ‘girl’ and ‘boy’ on alcohol labels. While we recognise the distinct purpose of the campaign by BrewDog was to draw attention to an important social issue, producers still need to make sure that there is no way that their products could be misinterpreted as appealing to children.

“If in doubt we can offer free advice and guidance to prevent issues arising before products reach the shelf.”


Brewdog’s response

(Photo: Brewdog)

Responding to the ruling today, Brewdog said: “As a one-off campaign aimed squarely at satirising gender stereotypes on International Women’s Day, we’re comfortable it was no more aimed at underage drinkers than it was genuinely targeted at women.

“We’re as bothered about this Portman Group ruling as we are any other – that is, not at all.”

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