A new Sponsorship Code for alcohol producers has been announced by the Portman Group at the unveiling of the fifth version of its Code of Practice, writes Adam Pescod. Expected to be completed by Spring 2013, the Sponsorship Code will require producers to promote responsible drinking as an integral part of any sponsorship. The Portman Group committed to review its Code of Practice on the Responsible Naming, Packaging and Promotion of Alcoholic Drinks as part of the Government’s Responsibility Deal. The review included a full public consultation, expert workshops and views from over one hundred stakeholders ranging from government bodies, NGOs and the public health community through to producers, marketing experts and industry representatives. The remit of the Code has been extended so that it applies to all alcohol marketing not otherwise regulated by the ASA or Ofcom. The updated Code also bans any direct or indirect associations with sexual activity as well as preventing references to sexual success. It will also be prohibited for alcohol marketing to make claims about having therapeutic properties, such as being an aid to relaxation. Images of people who are (or look like they are) under 25 can no longer be featured in a significant role or be seen drinking or holding alcohol. The new Code also promotes low and lower alcohol alternatives with producers now able to draw attention to products which are below the average strength of similar drinks by making the lower strength a dominant theme. This supports the industry’s pledge under the Government’s Responsibility Deal to remove 1 billion units from the alcohol market by introducing and promoting new low and lower alcohol ranges. The Code will also continue to cover any online content that is not subject to ASA rules. Henry Ashworth, chief executive of the Portman Group said: “This is about the intelligent evolution of a highly respected and effective Code. Our task is to set the right balance between legitimate marketing activity and public protection, especially of young people. Tough self-regulation is the most effective way to regulate alcohol marketing and this approach is supported by Government and the industry and recognised as the gold standard. “We have ensured there is consistency with other alcohol regulators (Advertising Standards Authority and Ofcom). We have also removed the barriers which previously prevented producers from promoting low and lower alcohol alternatives to consumers.” The revised Code rules will not come into effect until May 2013, giving six months for producers and marketers to prepare.