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SIBA's proposed marketing Code of Practice: to be debated in Liverpool during BeerX


SIBA proposes marketing Code of Practice

Getting the balance right will be crucial to the Society of Independent Brewers’ proposed Code of Practice on sexist or offensive marketing, according to the organisation’s head of public affairs James Calder.

“This is not a red tape exercise,” he said. “We don’t want brewers losing their advantage of being nimble and edgy; we just don’t want that to tip over into the stupid and offensive.”

The guidelines will be debated by a panel of brewers and experts at next week’s BeerX conference in Liverpool. Recommendations are likely to be taken to the organisation’s next board meeting in May.

SIBA revealed, however, that it has already been vetting entries to its beer contests and planned to rewrite competition guidelines before a motion to create a marketing code of practice covering the issue of sexist or offensive branding was passed unanimously by the body’s South East annual general meeting.

“The issue has been at the forefront of our minds,” said Calder, nevertheless rejecting the suggestion that SIBA has been influenced by the ‘Me Too’ movement against sexual harassment.

“This is certainly a watershed moment, though. We’re a democracy and this is what our members want.”

Nor have there been any specific complaints, he went on.

“The vast majority of our members market their beers in a responsible way. There are exceptions, but most are very sensible, and this isn’t a direct response to anything.”

Since the announcement about the code of practice, “there have been a few grumbles, but the feedback we’ve had has been overwhelmingly positive.

“We are concerned about getting the balance right, though, and nothing has been firmed up yet. The discussion at BeerX will broadly determine what the guidelines look like, so this will be an important event for us and a chance to read the temperature on this.

“We don’t want to be the sole arbiter of taste, though,” he added, declaring that SIBA will support moves on the issue by other bodies, in particular industry watchdog The Portman Group, which has indicated that it could include sexist branding in a revision of its own Code of Practice.

Wild Card Brewery’s Jaega Wise, who proposed the SIBA South East motion, encouraged members to scrutinise their current branding “even when long-standing, and make plans to change anything which might be considered inappropriate to today’s consumers.

“Ideally, members should take action sooner rather than later so they don’t face the costs and adverse publicity of having to withdraw or change a brand at short notice.”

SIBA’s plans for marketing Code of Practice were welcomed by the Campaign for Real Ale.

Tom Stainer, CAMRA's Head of Communications, commented, “We welcome and are very supportive of the code of practice SIBA has introduced and our volunteer leadership has been working on strengthening CAMRA's own policy in this area since last year.

“CAMRA already has policies and guidelines in place to promote inclusivity and tolerance, including its Code of Conduct and Volunteers' Charter. Most recently, our National Executive issued a clear statement that it does not condone discriminatory marketing of beers and ciders and will not accept products marketed in this way at festivals or in its competitions. We are looking to embed these values into activities across the organisation."

Phil Mellows
12th March 2018

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