Moa has its fair share of detractors, from threat-making Pakistanis to protective Frenchies to lesbians to those who disagreed with the imagery used in its, shall we say, unique prospectus. So it came as a shock to many when the trickster god of the Kiwi beer family was announced as a sponsor of the New Zealand Olympic team, a sponsorship we felt it did a fantastic job of leveraging online and in person at Kiwi house in London. And as part of its 'Beer for Olympians' campaign, it has had one complaint upheld and one not upheld by the ASA.
The complaint that wasn't upheld was about its Shout a New Zealand Olympian a Moa campaign, where a Facebook app developed by Gladeye allowed entrants to go in the draw to win a share of the podium of beer and leave messages of support for the athletes. While the shout was “a virtual beer that only exists in computerland”, each Olympian received a special Moa Olympic Edition Magnum with all the messages of support enclosed.
The complaints board said: "It noted that this website also contained an R18 gate page which greatly reduced the chances of exposure of the advertisement to minors as anyone entering the site was required to confirm they were over 18 years of age. Therefore, while the reference to Olympians had met the threshold with regard to identifiable heroes, in the context of a website with restricted access, taking a commonsense approach, the majority of Complaints Board ruled that the advertisement before it was not in breach of Principle 4.3 of the Code [heroes of the young] for Advertising Liquor."
The upheld complaint was about an ad featuring a Moa 1.5L Victory magnum and at the bottom of the advertisement ran the slogan 'Beer for Olympians', which also features on its packaging, and the New Zealand Olympic team logo.
"[The complaint] relates to the NZ Herald ad run on the 7 Aug," says Moa's marketing manager Sunil Unka. "The ad was about Kiwi House in London and more specifically about them running out of Moa because it was so damn popular, so it was only relevant for that moment in time anyway."
It's doubtful a belated slap on the wrist by the ASA is of great concern to Moa, especially given the news about its IPO, which closed early after being over-subscribed, and also because it seems to thrive on controversy (it doesn't send its creative through the LAPS process).
The complainant said the association of the beer with Olympians was in breach of Principal 4.3 of the Code for Advertising Liquor with regard to a reference to heroes of the young. A duplicate complainant shared similar views.
The Complaints Board noted that while no Olympian was mentioned by name, it was of the view that the likely consumer take out of the advertisement was that it referred to New Zealand’s Olympic medal winners. The Board said the athletes that won medal at the Olympics were aspirational and could be regarded as identifiable heroes or heroines of the young, similar to the All Blacks who have been found to be heroes in previous decisions. Therefore, it said the association of Olympians with alcohol was inappropriate (in the context of a newspaper ad).
The board took into account that the advertisement appeared in a newspaper and while newspaper readership was predominantly adult, it was easily accessible to those under 18 years, and in addition, there had been considerable interest in the Olympic Games coverage across all media by all ages.
In Moa's response to the complaint it said: "We are familiar with the code and principles and take great care to ensure our advertising is not in breach. It is our understanding that 'heroes of the young' relates to the competitors participating in a sporting event and not the actual sport or event itself. To this we very deliberately omitted any direct reference to an Olympic athlete. Therefore no Olympic participant would be endorsing Moa beer. Furthermore, the advertisement was targeted towards people that are legally able to purchase beer (those over 18 years of age), and people who were able to legally consume beer at Kiwi House (those over 18 years of age), so there is no intent to target anyone under the legal drinking age in New Zealand. For informational purposes, Moa Brewing Company has no intention of running this advertisement again as it was created specifically in relation to the events that occurred at that particular point in time."