NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- A drinking game and website that aggregated consumer-generated photos of "bros" getting "iced" has garnered media attention and, likely, has also moved cases for Smirnoff Ice, a sugary malt beverage. But the site, BrosIcingBros.com, is down, and it looks like Smirnoff had a hand in its demise.
"Icing" is a viral drinking game that has had college students and the occasional New Yorker chugging bottles of Smirnoff Ice on one knee. Since the phenomenon started weeks ago, players have been buying up bottles to punk -- or "ice" -- their friends or protect themselves from getting iced by carrying a bottle with them at all times. But the potential poster child for viral marketing appears to have nothing to do with the marketer at all. And since late yesterday, the game's hub is now only a blank page with the message "We had a good run Bros."
Smirnoff's response to Ad Age about the site's closure suggests that this is indeed not another viral, though ethically blurry, stunt.
"[Smirnoff Ice parent] Diageo has taken measures to stop this misuse of its Smirnoff Ice brand and marks, and to make it clear that 'icing' does not comply with our marketing code, and was not created or promoted by Diageo, Smirnoff Ice, or anyone associated with Diageo," the company said in a statement.
Diageo has been subject to speculation about the drinking game and corresponding viral program; some suggested they were trumped up by marketing to boost the beverage's less-than-spectacular sales. That notion seemed to make sense considering Smirnoff is has a proven viral-marketing track record in the Smirnoff "Tea Partay" viral video that took off a few years ago. However, CNN reported that the person behind the Bros site is a 22-year-old recent college grad using the name "Joe." He did not respond to requests for comment via e-mail.
A spokeswoman declined to expand upon whether Diageo's "measures" included legal action or threat, but one trademark and copyright lawyer thinks Smirnoff would have a case.
"I would say there is a case because of disparagement of the product and using the name in association with this game," said Annette Heller, a 30-year St. Louis trademark and copyright lawyer. "They [BrosIcingBros.com] are using the trademark in a way that disparages the product and exposing Smirnoff to liability." The Bros site included the name of the product, which is a trademark, as well as pictures of the product that include the brand's logo. Ms. Heller, however, said parody does not count as infringement.
Other icing sites like Iced You and You Got Iced, the latter from Jay Belin, a booker for the New York club Mercury Lounge, are still up, and their owners say they have not yet been contacted by Smirnoff.