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Diageo’s Captain Morgan rum rapped for ‘implying alcohol could enhance personal qualities’

By Rachel Arthur+

31-Aug-2016
Last updated on 31-Aug-2016 at 10:53 GMT2016-08-31T10:53:52Z

The captain face was superimposed on the actor in the advert.
The captain face was superimposed on the actor in the advert.

An advert for Diageo’s Captain Morgan rum has been banned by the UK’s advertising authority, which ruled the ad implied that drinking alcohol could enhance confidence. 

The name and mascot for the brand is based on the 17th century pirate and privateer Sir Henry Morgan, and the ad was based around the notion of ‘putting your captain face on’.  

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) concluded that the ad was 'irresponsible' as it believed it implies that drinking alcohol could enhance personal qualities.

But Captain Morgan says it disagrees with the ASA's interpretation, and insists the ad illustrates camaraderie and living life to the full. 

Captain Morgan’s advertising has previously run in to trouble with the ASA for encouraging ‘daring, tough and aggressive’ behavior (Feb 2014) and implying that alcohol can overcome boredom (July 2014).

‘Put your captain face on’

This time, a TV advert for the rum (aired in May 2016), showed a party on an old-fashioned wooden sailing ship (you can watch the advert in the video below).

The ad showed a man with Captain Morgan’s face, as from the rum’s logo, superimposed over his own. He danced with friends, used a rope to swing from one deck to another, and posed on the ship.

On-screen text stated “Captain the dancefloor”; “Captain the night” and “Put your captain face on”.

A picture of Captain Morgan products appeared alongside text that said “Live like the captain”.

Captain, brand and rum all linked, says ASA

Diageo Great Britain said the ad emphasized the attitude the Captain Morgan brand embodies – one of camaraderie, spending time with friends and living life to the full.

It stated that no alcohol was shown in the party scenes, and the product was only shown in the image at the end.

The ASA acknowledged that the use of Captain Morgan’s face was intended to link the man’s behavior to the brand’s attitude of fun and living life to the full, and to the historical figure that it was named after, and not to represent drinking.

But it also believed that viewers would link this to the rum itself. “While we agreed that the use of the Captain’s face associated the character and his actions directly with the brand, we considered that viewers would equate the brand and the character with the product itself,” it said.

“Viewers were therefore likely to understand that the central figure’s behavior resulted from his consumption of Captain Morgan rum.”

‘Captain’ as a verb

Diageo had argued that the message of ‘Captain the night’ emphasized acting independently and in control.

But the ASA said the use of “captain” as a verb – meaning being in charge or in control - “carried connotations of enhanced confidence, dominance, and ability to lead others.

“As such, we considered that the phrase “Captain the dancefloor” also implied enhanced confidence and abilities on the dancefloor,” it said.

“In that context, we considered that the phrases “Put your captain face on” and “Live like the captain” would be understood by consumers as invitations to achieve a confident, uninhibited attitude through consuming Captain Morgan rum.”

Therefore the ASA concluded the ad implied that drinking alcohol could enhance personal qualities, and was therefore irresponsible. The ad must not appear again in its current form.

A second complaint, which claimed the ad was irresponsible because it implied that the success of a social occasion depended on the presence or consumption of alcohol, was not upheld by the ASA.

Captain Morgan: 'We disagree with the ASA's interpretation'

Julie Bramham, European marketing director, Captain Morgan, said the brand was disappointed by the ASA's ruling.

"While we are pleased that the ASA chose to not uphold part of the complaint, we disagree with their interpretation on the rest of the ruling," she said. 

"No alcohol was pictured and the Captain Morgan face was designed to represent the brand as a whole and not intended to be linked to the consumption of alcohol.

"We believe that the advert illustrated camaraderie, enjoying time with friends and living life to the full whilst taking charge of a night out and staying in control.”

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