Sandeep Goyal
Mar 31, 2023

Blog: Open letter to the ASCI chairperson on surrogate advertising, once again

Ahead of the IPL, the author continues his crusade against misuse of surrogate advertising by liquor brands

Blog: Open letter to the ASCI chairperson on surrogate advertising, once again
31 March, 2023
Mr. N S Rajan
Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI)
Subject: Surrogate advertising on the IPL by liquor brands
Dear Mr Rajan,
I have written in the past to two of your predecessors, Abanti Sankaranarayanan and Subhash Kamath, on the above subject.
ASCI’s response to surrogate advertising on television (and digital too) in past years has been largely that of benign tolerance, allowing campaigns that are blatantly aired by liquor brands to run with no, or at most, lukewarm intervention. I have repeatedly protested this blind-eye attitude of the ASCI.
The IPL starts again today. And contraventions of the law of the land vis-à-vis surrogate advertising are already in evidence. 
Beer brand Bira 91 announced earlier this week that it will be the official partner for five teams this IPL season: Mumbai Indians, Delhi Capitals, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Sunrisers Hyderabad, and Kolkata Knight Riders.
In a press release dated 28 March, 2023, “Bira 91, India’s fastest growing beer brand” said “these partnerships are a true celebration of the fusion of cricket and beer, creating bespoke experiences for India’s new-age consumers”. 
The press release goes onto elaborate, “Cricket and beer have long been considered a perfect combination, with many fans of the sport enjoying a chilled beer while watching their favorite teams in action. The experience of watching cricket with friends, family or fellow fans is enhanced by the addition of beer, with the shared enjoyment of a few cold ones adding to the camaraderie and sense of occasion. Bira 91 has been a long-standing supporter of cricket, both through its association with the International Cricket Council (ICC) and the partnership with Delhi Capitals last year. The association with cricket has helped elevate the sports viewing experience of fans and helped increase the brand’s visibility amongst fans, with Bira 91 becoming a go-to beer for those watching cricket matches across India and beyond."
The founder and CEO of the company, Ankur Jain, adds, “As the worlds of cricket and beer both undergo a generational shift, fans and consumers crave new and flavorful experiences”. 
The company release further says, “By partnering with 5 outstanding teams, the brand aims to expand its reach across regions and brew the timeless love Indians have for cricket and beer."
The Bira 91 logo will surely feature somewhere on the IPL team jerseys that Bira 91 has partnered with. The logo will also be caught on cameras, and seen in the broadcast on television, and the live stream on digital. Bira 91 is not even camouflaging its partnership with IPL teams under any surrogate … their public statements say the sponsorship is by a beer brand. Can it be more blatant? More in the face? A bigger dare?
I am bringing this beer-cricket partnership to your kind notice. In the past, ASCI secretariat has evaded/dodged complaints asking vague questions in turn, and pointing to procedural limitations. This beer brand and its partnerships are being brought to your notice even before the first ball has been bowled in the current edition of the IPL.
May I remind you, sir:
The brand logo will surely be seen by youngsters below legal drinking age (it varies from state to state) and advertising liquor to those who are under-age is not allowed under the law of the land. This subterfuge of the law by placing a beer logo on team jerseys requires urgent and pro-active action and prevention by ASCI.
This brand does sell some glasses and T-shirts under the Bira 91 brand name but in their media utterances they are not even pointing to those products as possible surrogates – the partner is the beer brand, not any other product with a similar or common brand name. It is unambiguous and if I may say, unapologetic.
Request the active immediate intervention of ASCI in preventing liquor brands such as Bira 91 from:
1. Advertising on television and on digital
2. Advertising openly, blatantly to under-age viewers on both television and digital.
And in this case, there is not even a surrogate that is being deployed!
Warm regards,
Dr. Sandeep Goyal
B 2202, Lady Ratan Towers,
Mumbai – 400 018
Dr. Goyal has been carrying on a crusade against misuse of surrogate advertising by liquor brands, for many years. He is the managing director at Rediffusion. 
Campaign India

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