Citing Diversity Concerns, Brewers Association Tightens Marketing Rules

In an updated code, the association set out guidelines for appropriate marketing of craft brews, including avoiding potentially offensive brand names and imagery. The association won't give brewers that market such brands the same exposure and access to its licensing as in the past.

The craft beer industry has long been pretty accommodating about how brewers name  their beers, but as controversy around some of those names grows, those days could be numbered.

The Brewers Association (BA), which represents thousands of independent brewers and others in the craft brew industry, recently updated its advertising and marketing code [PDF] in the wake of concerns about brand names that use sexually explicit or derogatory language.  (One example is Flying Dog’s popular Belgian-style IPA. You’ll find the name here with the company’s other brands, if you’re interested.)

“I think we want to stay away from names and labels that can be offensive,” Brewers Association Director Paul Gatza said at the group’s Craft Brewers Conference event, according to BrewBound. “That turns off people.”

The new code, amended this month, states that “beer is meant to be enjoyed responsibly. Beer marketing should be representative of the values, ideals, and integrity of a diverse culture and free of any derogatory or discriminatory messages or imagery.”

One way BA will address the issue will be in its awards program. While brews with potentially objectionable names can still win awards at events like the World Beer Cup and the Great American Beer Fest, the association will not license its branding to be used in marketing those products and will not publicly honor those winners at BA events.

“We want our members to be responsible corporate citizens,” said Brewers Association President and CEO Bob Pease, according to BrewBound. “We want to err on the side of tolerance. It’s not going to be black and white. There’s a subjective element to that, and … we’re going to find ways to be inclusive.”

Pease acknowledged that BA is walking a fine line with this approach. It will not bar beer makers with racy brew names from joining the organization or being full-fledged members, he said, and no screening policies will be implemented.

“[W]e do think this step is the right thing to do and shows the leadership that is needed,” Pease added. “But it’s gonna be sticky. It’s going to be hard.”

BA isn’t alone on the issue. Earlier this year, All About Beer Magazine announced it would no longer feature brews with names considered sexist or demeaning.

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!