Changes to the ABAC Responsible Alcohol Marketing Code

Oct 24, 2023

What is the Code and what does it do?

The ABAC Responsible Alcohol Marketing Code (the Code) sets the standards that must be adhered to in Australia for the responsible content and placement of alcohol marketing. Its objective is to ensure that the marketing of alcohol as a whole is consistent with the objectives of the National Alcohol Strategy for the reduction of harm from adult alcohol consumption and most importantly, does not encourage minors to consumer alcohol.

Why was there a review?

The last review of the Code took place in 2014, with a targeted review taking place in 2017 in relation to the placement of alcohol advertising. With the way in which alcohol is marketed and with the growth of non-alcoholic products by alcohol brands, ABAC recognised that a review of the whole Code was required.

The review commenced in 2022 where ABAC sought public submissions on all aspects of the Code. ABAC received 26 submissions, which represented a wide range of stakeholders from Government and community health organisations to media and alcohol brands.

What are the changes?

The changes to the Code include:

  • expanding the definition of alcohol to capture ‘beverages’ that are not just in liquid form;
  • expanding the Code beyond alcohol products and brand extensions of alcohol products, to capture alcohol styled beverages with less than 0.5% alcohol by volume (such as zero alcohol beer);
  • increasing the percentage of adult viewers on television programs from 75% to 80%;
  • drawing a distinction between alcohol marketing communications ad alcohol alternative marketing communications, including clarifying which parts of the Code apply to each type of communication;
  • expanding on the list of examples of marketing communications and media that the Code applies to;
  • prohibiting the portrayal of refusing alcohol or a choice of abstinence negatively and similarly, prohibiting the portrayal of excessive alcohol as amusing, or a therapeutic or health benefit;
  • amending and clarifying specific restrictions with marketing to minors, including a new definition of ‘strong or evident appeal to minors’ and new requirements where minors and individuals aged 18-24 are depicted in marketing (including prohibiting influencers under the age of 25 from advertising alcohol products on social media);
  • prohibiting marketing communications being delivered by hand to minors or a person who has sought to be excluded from a marketing database; and
  • outlining the standards that apply to alcohol alternatives.

When do the changes take effect?

The changes took effect on 31 August 2023. However, there is a transition period for how complaints will be dealt with, depending on when a complaint was made and when the marketing communication in question entered the market, as follows:

  • complaints received before 1 August 2023 will still be considered under the old Code.
  • complaints received between 1 August 2023 and 31 December 2023 will be considered under the new Code, unless the complaint relates to Part 4(c) of the new Code (which applies to age restrictions on digital, radio, cinema and broadcast print media), or relates to a marketing communication that has been continuously in market since on or before 31 July 2023. If the complaint triggers either of those two criteria, it will be considered under the old Code.
  • All complaints received from 1 January 2024 will be considered under the new Code, regardless of when the marketing communication entered the market.

What does this mean for you, sponsorship and your promotions?

If you are an alcohol promoter, you should ensure that you are familiar with the requirements of the new Code. These changes may impact your current promotions in market, but also any promotions that you are planning for the future.

If you are an alcohol brand and sponsor a team or an athlete, or if you engage with influencers to market your products, you should ensure that you are familiar with the new Code. Particularly if any members of the team, the athlete or influencer are under the age of 25.

To familiarise yourself with the new Code, you can do so here.

If you would like to know more about how the changes to ABAC might impact your business, sponsorships or promotions, get in touch with our Commercial Team.