Medco Atlantic is the importer of Hit & Run rum. The rum, imported from the Dominican Republic, is available in typically-shaped bottles as well as in bottles shaped like baseball bats.
A challenge to Medco Atlantic's promotion of the product was brought to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States Code Review Board. The DISCUS Code Review Board reviews distilled spirits advertising for compliance with its Code of Responsible Practices for Beverage Alcohol Advertising and Marketing.
The complainant argued that Medco Atlantic violated three different provisions of the Responsible Content Provisions of the Code:
- Section B3 provides that, "Beverage alcohol advertising or marketing materials should not portray beverage alcohol being consumed by a person who is engaged in, or is about to engage in, any activity that is illegal or reuqires a high degree of alertness or physical coordination, such as driving a vehicle."
- Section C13 and C14 provide examples of "inappropriate content," including "association with anti-social or dangerous behavior" and "depicts illegal activity of any kind."
Specifically, the complainant argued that the brand name of the product was inappropriate due to its association with drunk driving and "hit and run" accidents. Apparently, the importer, who is not a member of DISCUS, did not respond to the complaint.
DISCUS considered the complaint and determined that the rum's branding did not violate the DISCUS Code. The Board wrote, "the packaging and marketing materials solely suggested an association with baseball and did not promote a connotation related to dangerous or illegal activities. The Board did note, however, that the 'Hit & Run' brand name for a distilled spirits product does contain unfortunate alternate meanings and urged the advertiser to remain diligent to ensure that the advertising and marketing around this brand avoids any associations with dangerous or illegal activities."
One thing that was not clear to me from the DISCUS decision, however, was whether the Board considered the use of the "Hit & Run" name in connection with packaging that didn't have an association with baseball, such as this:
When there's no direct association with baseball, is there a bigger risk that the name comes across as playing off the association with drunk driving? Or, did DISCUS just feel that generic references to "Hite & Run" were acceptable because the name was susceptible to more than one meaning?
"the packaging and marketing materials solely suggested an association with baseball and did not promote a connotation related to dangerous or illegal activities"