ASA Ruling on Misleading ‘VIP Trip’ Promotion: Red Bull Company

The Advertising Standards Authority has upheld a complaint by the winner of a Red Bull competition after finding that the promotion was not administered properly and the description of the prize as “VIP” was misleading.

The promotion stated “WIN A VIP TRIP TO WATCH THE BELGIUM GRAND PRIX … To celebrate the up-coming Belgium Grand Prix (31 August – 2 September), we’re giving one winner a pair of tickets to watch the action as well as a flights [sic] and accommodation at the luxurious four-star Beaumont hotel for two nights.”

The winner complained after the trip, having experienced a number of issues with the administration and organisation of the promotion, including the fact that the airport, hotel and event spanned three separate countries. Having been flown to Germany, the winner was then required to travel to a hotel in the Netherlands before eventually attending the Grand Prix in Belgium. He had to share a bed with his brother, organise his own transport between venues and leave the Grand Prix early owing to the timing of the return flight (which Red Bull acknowledged was “not ideal”).

The ASA decided that Red Bull had failed to include “significant information likely to influence consumers’ understanding of the promotion” which included “information relating to the different locations of the event, airport and hotel, and that travel to and from them was not included.”

The ASA considered that the headline claim “Win a VIP trip to watch the Belgium Grand Prix” implied that the entire trip was “VIP”, including travel, hotel and event tickets. The term “VIP” was likely to be understood as meaning “exclusive”, and specifically “non-standard”. It was therefore reasonable for participants to expect better than budget airline flights and Grand Prix tickets which included admission to VIP areas.

The ASA decided that the ad breached the CAP Code and must not appear in its current form again. Red Bull was told to include significant conditions in future promotions and to ensure they had adequate resources in place to administer promotions.

CAP issued revised guidance on prize promotions in December 2012. Companies should remember the Code’s basic rule that “Promoters must avoid causing unnecessary disappointment.” Anyone organising a promotion with a travel and/or accommodation prize should read the ASA’s Red Bull adjudication.


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