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Communicating about alcohol responsibly

Tackling alcohol misuse and promoting sensible drinking are responsibilities shared by many stakeholders. But when it comes to communicating responsibly about its products, we believe the industry should play a leading role.

Our approach

Not only do we take seriously our own obligations to market our brands responsibly to adults, we also work in partnership to drive common industry standards. Three principles underlie our approach to establishing rigorous standards for marketing and helping consumers make informed decisions about drinking – or not drinking:

Following our own codes

Performance against target
Target by 2013 2013 performance Achievement
Diageo marketing to be 100% compliant with the Diageo Marketing Code (DMC) 99.7% Not achieved

Diageo has two codes governing marketing standards: the Diageo Marketing Code (DMC), and the Digital Code of Practice, which together cover all media. Our aim is for all our marketing to comply fully, and we track this via an online tool that governs all our marketing campaigns. In 2013, 99.72% of our marketing complied. While this is an excellent achievement, we nevertheless continue to aspire to total compliance through enhanced communication and training.

Diageo Marketing Code

Governing us, and the third parties with whom we partner, the DMC is our mandatory minimum marketing standard. It applies across all our markets and guides every aspect of our activities, from research and development to marketing, promotion, and packaging. It includes, for example, a requirement to direct our marketing only at adults, and not to present moderate consumption or abstinence negatively. We review the code every 12 to 18 months to ensure it addresses evolving issues in the marketplace.

Digital Code of Practice

Complementing the DMC, this code sets out 10 principles for digital marketing. These include ensuring that marketing is directed at adults over the legal purchasing age, and monitoring user-generated content. Last year, we refreshed this code and delivered a company-wide training course for all relevant marketers and third-party agencies. This year, we continued to train new trainers on this code.

Supporting industry codes

Performance against target
Target by 2013 2013 performance Achievement
Effective industry self-regulatory or co-regulatory codes in place in our top 40 countries by value 38 Not achieved

We believe that the alcohol industry has a collective reputation – if one player does the wrong thing with regards to promoting and marketing its products, we all stand to lose the trust of the public and regulators. As such, it is in all our interests to set rigorous industry standards, and work to establish industry compliance.

We manage our business with strict observance of all local regulations and laws, including those governing marketing. We strive to abide by industry self- or co‑regulation codes in markets where they exist, and we work with others to establish them where they do not. Since 2008 more than 20 new national responsible marketing codes for alcohol have been introduced.

Almost all of our top markets by value have an advertising code. In the United Arab Emirates alcohol advertising is prohibited so we do not have a code. In Cameroon there is no code, so we are working with local partners to establish a strong industry standard.

DISCUS and responsible marketing

In November 2012, Diageo joined industry leaders, government officials, and media experts from Facebook, Google, Twitter, Neilson, and Comscore at the annual best practice media summit of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS). This included a day focused on compliance with the DISCUS Code of Responsible Practices. The session reviewed consumer trends and featured innovative techniques and technologies to moderate user-generated content on social media, as well as new tools to verify the age of users on social media sites such as Twitter.

Complaints about advertising upheld by industry bodies that report publicly (2013)1
Country Industry body Industry complaints upheld Complaints about Diageo brands
Australia Alcohol beverage advertising code 16 0
Ireland Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI) 1 0
United Kingdom The Portman Group 1 0
Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) 23 0
United States Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) 1 0
  1. 1 July 2012 – 30 June 2013.

Breaches of self-regulatory codes

Five industry bodies publicly report breaches of their self-regulatory codes, and this year Diageo was not responsible for any breaches. The industry bodies that monitor these self-regulatory codes do not impose fines; nevertheless, removing the offending marketing can be a costly lesson for any company. Further consequences include reputational damage and, in some instances, additional controls, such as being subject to mandatory pre‑clearance for future advertising.

Making information available to consumers

Performance against target
Target by 2013 2013 performance Achievement
Responsible drinking reminders (RDRs) included in 100% of above-the-line advertising material 100% Achieved included on all renovated and new brand labels 96% Spirits and ready-to-go drink products 
90% Beer products
45% Wine products
Not achieved

To make responsible choices, consumers need clear and accessible information to be readily available. Our Diageo Alcohol Beverage Information Policy (DABIP) stipulates that we provide consumers with the right information to help them make sensible choices. The policy requires all new product launches, packaging renovations, and promotional packaging changes to include the following information on the primary packaging:

  • Responsible drinking reminders
  • Allergen information
  • Alcohol by volume
  • A link to, our responsible drinking website.

An internal compliance audit conducted as part of DABIP found that some of our wine brands are putting DRINKiQ information on their websites, rather than on the label. We will rectify this as we refresh and reissue our policy next year.

We also publish nutritional information on packaging where such information is required by law, and in countries which ban alcohol websites, so that consumers will always have access to the information.


Diageo promotes responsible drinking through the DRINKiQ website and courses. Available in nine languages, with 22 specific country pages, aims to raise the ‘collective drink IQ’ by increasing public awareness of the effects of alcohol. Courses aim to broaden understanding of alcohol issues and share tips for responsible drinking.

This year, a diverse range of stakeholders trained with DRINKiQ, from hospitality industry trainers and students, to traffic police, bus drivers, members of the lifestyle media, and sports clubs.

Our country-specific efforts included holding DRINKiQ workshops in Nigeria as part of a wider ‘Plan Ahead’ responsible drinking campaign, which targeted media and entertainers with the responsible drinking message in the hope that those in a position of influence would help to raise awareness of the dangers of drinking too much, especially when driving. In the United Kingdom, we developed a tailored course which is being delivered to train 720 professional cricket players on DRINKiQ principles. In India and Thailand, traffic police participated in our courses. In Vietnam, we trained 1,000 bus drivers, while in Australia, through our partnership with the National Rugby League over the last seven years, we have raised awareness of responsible drinking among 2,500 young adults entering professional sports, including 300 this year.

Talking to our employees about responsible drinking

As well as taking new employees through the DRINKiQ course, we communicate with our people throughout the year about responsible drinking. For example, as the 2012 festive season approached, we wrote to employees urging them to celebrate our brands responsibly, whether hosting their own private celebrations, or an event on behalf of the company. We reminded them of our internal hosting guidelines that explain how to ensure alcohol is served responsibly at an event, as well as reminding them of the expectations set out in our Employee Alcohol Policy.

Promoting responsible drinking through our brands

As the guardian of many premium brands, we use our world-class marketing skills and reach to promote responsible drinking. Listed below are some of our brand‑led responsible drinking campaigns.

  • Johnnie Walker’s Join the Pact: former Formula One™ World Drivers’ Champions Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton and Mika Häkkinen led this year’s Join the Pact campaign, which is now in its fifth year and aims to collect online signatures from consumers pledging never to drink and drive. The number of signatures now stands at just under a million. The campaign covers 15 countries and this year included a visit by Lewis Hamilton to Singapore where he performed the World’s Most Powerful Signature.
  • Captain Morgan’s The Ship’s Cat: in late 2012, we launched a competition in association with Facebook challenging our marketing community to create breakthrough ideas to reinforce responsible drinking on a brand’s Facebook pages. The winning entry from the Captain Morgan global brand team created a new responsible drinking ambassador, Cinnamon the Ship’s Cat, and aimed witty messages at Captain Morgan consumers through Facebook’s new newsfeed advertising. The campaign, which targeted mobile users, was launched during the festive period in December 2012 and was rolled out across Western Europe in 2013, reaching more than 5.5 million users.

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