Scotch Marketing - Code of Practice

13 May 2016

The Scotch Whisky industry takes seriously its commitment to marketing products to consumers in a responsible way. 

Distillers want consumers to enjoy and appreciate their products moderately as part of a balanced and healthy lifestyle.  To that end, Scotch Whisky companies support and adhere to the advertising and marketing codes applicable in the markets where their brands are sold, including in the UK those of the Advertising Standards Authority, OFCOM and the Portman Group.

However, SWA members have gone even further. In 2005, the SWA published its Code of Practice that sets out binding minimum standards for its members on the marketing and promotion of Scotch Whisky.

The Code has been regularly updated to ensure it keeps pace with changes in new marketing techniques and technologies.  A third edition came into force on 1 July 2015 which is global in scope and sets out best practice for Scotch Whisky producers in export markets where stricter national codes do not exist. 

All commercial activities and communications in relation to Scotch Whisky are covered, including:

  • Brand advertising and promotional material
  • Product labelling and packaging
  • Point of sale material
  • Digital marketing
  • Tastings
  • Sponsorship and press releases

Areas covered by the Code are:

  • Responsible consumption
  • Protecting those under the legal purchase age
  • Alcohol content
  • Drinking & driving
  • Sexual & social success
  • Alcohol & health
  • Tastings
  • Digital Marketing
  • Sponsorship

A key part of the Code is the comprehensive complaints procedure backed by a range of robust sanctions. Complaints are initially investigated by the SWA, prior to review by the Complaints Committee of the Council of the Association.

If the complaint is upheld the company concerned may appeal to an Independent Complaints Panel. Where a complaint is upheld, the Complaints Committee/Independent Complaints Panel has the power to:

  • Require swift remedial action to be taken to end the conduct which has been found to be in breach of the Code
  • Name and shame by issuing a press notice setting out its decision
  • Take action to recoup any reasonable cost incurred during the remediation action taken by the SWA up to a maximum of £50,000

Failure of a company to take action to remedy conduct found to be in breach of the Code could result in expulsion from the Association.

A copy of the Code of Practice can be downloaded below.

Any member of the public wishing to make a complaint under the Code's provisions should contact the SWA at  

Douglas Meikle, SWA Head of Alcohol Policy

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