The complaint was taken against Diageo Ireland by consultant Dr Bobby Smyth, clinical associate professor at the Department of Public Health at Trinity College.
The posters and press advertisement were part of a campaign by Diageo in the run-up to Ireland’s participation in the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand last September.
The images showed former player Brendan Mullin running across a pitch, ball in hand, while being tackled.
The bottom right-hand corner of the ad featured a Guinness-branded rugby ball beside the IRFU logo, stating “Guinness, proud partner of Irish Rugby.”
On the left-hand side of the poster there was a pint of Guinness with branding and responsible drinking messages. The main caption of the poster read “Surge Towards Greatness”.
Dr Smyth complained to the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland (ASAI) that, firstly, the ad suggested that Guinness could enhance physical performance.
Secondly, he said alcohol did not assist rugby players in surging towards greatness.
Dr Smyth said as rugby was played primarily by males aged 15-34 and, given alcohol was responsible for one in every four deaths in that age group, rigorous adherence to advertising standards was required.
Diageo strongly refuted that the ad encouraged the consumption of Guinness by rugby players or that it suggested it enhanced sporting performance. It said it was a message of support and encouragement to the team as they headed to New Zealand.
It said the reference to greatness in the ad was a clear reference to the greatness of the Irish team.
The ASAI did not uphold the first and third complaint. But on the second complaint, the “committee considered that the advertisers’ strap line ‘Surge to Greatness‘”’ and the prominent portrayal of the product was inappropriate”.
A spokeswoman for Diageo said they were disappointed by the ruling, but would respect the decision.