Dreaming Big is banned in Ireland!

Conor McHregor, Budweiser advert banned by RTE

Our state broadcaster, RTE has just banned the Budweiser commercial featuring UFC fighter and Irish hero Conor McGregor.

The banning has already led to newspaper articles, much discussion and a huge curiosity and will inevitably have everyone googling just to see what this “offensive” advert was all about. I suspect they will be left scratching their heads wondering what the fuss was all about.

In many ways this could be deemed as a huge success for the brand because it will now achieve a level of visibility and notoriety that it previously didn’t have, without having to pay the advertising costs.

While it sends out a big message from RTE you would like to think that this is a good, sensible one because we do want there to be watchdogs to protect us from danger. It is important that ‘banning’ makes sense, that it is rational and that it is fair.

The advertising guidelines around alcohol are very strict in Ireland and all of these were followed carefully.

In the advert there isn’t a picture of a bottle of beer, there isn’t a pub in sight. There is just Conor tastefully captured in a scene walking around his home town, Crumlin in Dublin, which then transforms into a street in LA.

This 27 year old apprentice plumber has achieved huge success by dedication to his sport and the advert demonstrates this with the help of these scenes and the voice over by Conor:

Never give up on your dream

Be your own inspiration, a beacon of self belief

Keep proving others wrong

If your dream doesn’t scare you, then its not big enough

So dream, as big as you dare

Only at the very end of the advert do we see the Budweiser logo and the usual drink responsibly message at the bottom of the screen.

For me the message from the advert is a very inspirational one, delivering a powerful positive message. Yes, it does come from a beer brand, which I think is more than ok. It shows you how the guidelines are keeping alcohol brands in a very responsible place and forcing a communication about positive values.

The message coming from RTE in banning this advert?

According to the newspapers they issued a statement to the Sunday Business Post that the advert breached advertising guidelines because Conor McGregor is considered a “hero to the young“, which will in turn encourage them to drink alcohol.

I don’t get it..

In my view banning the advert will achieve the wrong thing (besides totally confusing an industry that is trying to be very responsible) – viewers will definitely seek out the inspirational advert and could instead conclude that we are living in a censorship state that in some way has an issue with people from working class backgrounds having and achieving their dreams.

Banning the advert is also bad for the RTE brand as in my view it shows them as being ultra conservative and this is not good when they are up against such stiff competition. Leaving the censorship to the advertising authorities might be a much better policy.

It’s a great thing that we are seeing extra vigilance about alcohol advertising but we need to make sure that the brands that are working really hard to get it right aren’t punished.

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion who offer Marketing, PR and Graphic Design services from our offices in Dublin and Cork


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15 Responses to “Dreaming Big is banned in Ireland!”

  1. Fergal Bell Says:

    Seems a bit silly to me. Doesn’t it stay within the advertising rules?
    I’m of a similar mind to you in that RTE should let the advertising standards agency make the decision on whether ads should be allowed.

    Good ad though – well done Brendan!

  2. Caroline Crotty Says:

    Greg, I’m happy to read Conor’s advert was banned by RTE. I fail to see how the drinks brands are “working really hard to get it right”. If drinks companies (ie Diageo) are genuinely promoting responsible drinking why not sever their ties to Irish athletics? And if selflessly interested in promoting the idea of dreaming big, why not run Conor’s ad on RTE without the link to Budweiser? Its not as if they can’t afford to do that?

    • Greg Canty Says:

      Great to see an opposing view Caroline. Conor is a high profile athlete who has been very successful, which is why the inspirational message about ‘Dreaming Big’ works. Why would you want them to sever their ties to athletics – surely sport is a good thing and their sponsorship means more income for the sport?

      Your point about advertising and not mentioning your brand name ….hmmm, good luck with that one!

      • Mike McGrath Bryan Says:

        Did he obtain his success by boozing? Can we not find better advertising for sport than companies that specialise in feeding mental and physical ill-health problems in our country and whose ubiquity serves only to patronise and torment those dealing with its aftermath?

  3. Mike McGrath Bryan Says:

    “Dream big! Find a sense of purpose in these horrendous times for young people, and then tie it in to a product responsible for so many of this country’s mental and physical health problems, especially a depressant in the middle of a spiralling youth suicide crisis!”

    The fact that “drink alcohol responsibly” languishes on the bottom of the screen says it all, really. Same as Gambler’s Anonymous leaflets tucked nicely out of sight at a Paddy Power.

    • Greg Canty Says:

      Thanks Mike …I think you are on the side of banning alcohol, let alone banning alcohol advertising? Thanks for your input.

      • Mike McGrath Bryan Says:

        Not in the least. Grown adults can (and should) do whatever they please, as long it doesn’t hurt others or break any laws.

        Would just like to see these companies take responsibility with their campaigns. Kids are seeing these ads and equating achievement with the cheap cans in Centra, for some tied in with children’s allowance day. Grossly irresponsible.

      • Greg Canty Says:

        Thanks Mike – I worked in the industry before and can see a huge difference in how it has changed when it comes to promoting it’s brands and I genuinely don’t see a brand being irresponsible in any way here. You will never see an advert for the cheap cans in Centra and brands will run a mile from anything like that.

      • Mike McGrath Bryan Says:

        Doesn’t matter what the industry runs away from – the kids see the big Bud logo after Conor McGregor speechifies and then see it on the slabs at home or in the pub when trying to bring Dad home.

        The alcohol companies aren’t even trying to be responsible – if they were, they’d surely knock below-cost selling on the head and raise prices in pubs to inhibit binging?

      • Greg Canty Says:

        Beer brands don’t have to be a bad thing and alcohol certainly doesn’t have to be. Alcohol is great if it can be enjoyed sensibly – positive messaging can help. You won’t see the big brands doing any low cost selling

    • JW McCabe (@writingjwmccabe) Says:

      No,Greg if we take their perspective it removes personal responsibility from life. It is always someone else’s fault that little Liam or Mary drinks or decides to be a wanton trollop. That someone else can dictate the course of ones existence with a mere hint. Unless, that Conor bloke is coming to your house and punching you in the face until you drink that advert is meaningless. People who think as the above are simply cowards. They look outside themeselves for blame and even for hope.

      • Greg Canty Says:

        Thanks Jenny …. I am in your camp. I think the advert (and the campaign that runs alongside it) was a very positive one and I loved seeing seeing a brand promoting a positive sentiment. I don’t get the downside.

  4. Pyers Walsh Says:

    Conor McGregor is a hero to many in Ireland and across the world. He has worked hard and now he is being rewarded by one of the most powerful brands in the world. Budweiser does not hand out money for no reason, it is not a charity after all. The very fact that you say (Greg) that you do not even see the Bud logo until the end of the ad speaks volumes for just how clever the alcohol industry is in this country. This ad is not about Conor McGregor, it is about building a very clever association between a very successful and much worshiped athlete and their brand, i.e. Budweiser. So the seed is planted in the minds of the young from such a formative age that to be successful and to fit in you need to drink alcohol. I would certainly not consider myself to be a conservative, but I totally endore RTÉ’s right to ban this ad, as I think it works on a level that has not be analysed in this discussion so far. It is about linking alcohol with a sports star that is admired by kids as young as 8, 9 and 10 years of age. Surely as the country is awash with problems that directly stem from alcohol, like the smoking ban, surely we want to give this next generation the right to chose for themselves and not have rich multi-national firms manipulate their choice for them by utilising sports stars. However, you are totally correct by stating that the message of the ad is great – and that shows you how clever the ad is. If this was a health promotion ad, or an anti-depression ad for young people I would give it an award, but as it is selling alcohol with such a positive spin, I think it is under-hand and that it was 100% correct to ban it.

    • Greg Canty Says:

      Thanks for the interesting perspective Pyers – until I see other brands investing in such a positive message I’ll applaud Budweiser and hope that it turns out to be positive. If we take Pyer’s perspective on alcohol advertising is there any form of advertising they should be allowed to do?

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