The Kingdom’s Government took the drastic step yesterday of introducing a raft of measures aimed at restricting the sale, promotion and consumption of energy drinks. The move, which was not expected, will mean that as of now energy drinks companies will no longer be able to advertise or carry out promotion campaigns through ‘electronic or print media or any other means’.
It doesn’t end there. The Saudi Cabinet banned the free distribution of energy drinks to consumers belonging to all age groups. Energy drinks have also been banned in restaurants and canteens at government establishments, as well as educational and health institutions, public and private sports clubs and halls.
To quote from the report on the Al-Arabiya news-site, the full list of measures includes:
1 – To prohibit advertising of any energy drink or do advertising or promotional campaigns for any energy drink via any readable, audible or visible media organ, or by any other means.”
2 – To prohibit energy drinks companies, their agents, distributors and marketing associations from sponsoring any sporting, social or cultural event, or taking any procedure leading to promotion.
3 – To prohibit the free distribution of energy drinks to consumers of all age groups.
4 – To prohibit the sale of energy drinks in restaurants and canteens in government facilities; education and health facilities; halls and public and private sports clubs.
5 – Upon the decision, factory owners and importers of energy drinks shall be committing to writing a text on the tin of any energy drink in Arabic and English languages – warning of the harmful effects of energy drinks.”
In a market that has been constantly growing for the energy drinks sector (you can find Red Bull, Bison, Power Horse and other popular energy drinks brands everywhere), this is going to be a major blow for the business. Red Bull has already put out statements defending its position, including its availability in 165 countries worldwide and a lack of evidence to show that it is harmful (you can read the statement in full here). Red Bull and other brands are major event sponsors, and it’s uncertain where the shortfall in funding will come from.
However, the one area which has yet to be clarified is social media. Red Bull has its Saudi Twitter feed (@RedBullSaudi) and Facebook pages for its events. Red Bull did put out a tweet today from its Saudi feed. How is social media classified? Is it advertising or is social media more subtle? And how do the authorities class social media? It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out, both in the real world as well as on social media.