SOCIAL MEDIA ENDORSEMENT POLICY
Effective June 19, 2023
Table of Contents
Purpose and Scope
Caribou Coffee Operating Company, Inc. (“Caribou”), a Minnesota corporation, is committed to transparency and honesty in all of its advertising messages and promotional communications with consumers. One of the most common ways to advertise and market products in social media is to use third party endorsements. Like other types of advertising, endorsements must be truthful and not misleading. Consumers must understand when a social media endorsement is sponsored by Caribou.
This Social Media Endorsement Policy (“Policy”) applies to all agencies, independent contractors, speakers, writers, talent, influencers, and any other individual or entity engaged in promotional communications on behalf of Caribou on social media.
Caribou expressly reserves the right to change, modify, or delete the provisions of this Policy at any time without notice.
Defining an Endorser Covered by This Policy
An individual or entity communicating on social media is covered by this Policy if its promotional messages about Caribou or its products and/or brand are sponsored by Caribou (“Sponsored Endorser“). If the individual or entity is acting independently, it is not subject to this Policy.
A message is sponsored by Caribou if Caribou has a “Material Connection” with the individual or entity. A Material Connection is a tie to Caribou which if known to consumers might make consumers question the credibility of the endorser, or materially affect the weight consumers place on the endorsement. It puts the endorser’s independence in question. For example, Caribou creates a Material Connection if Caribou does any of the following either directly or through an advertising agency, public relations firm, or other third party:
- Hires an agency to blog, post, or serve as a community manager on Caribou’s behalf (both the agency and its employees then become Sponsored Endorsers).
- Enters into an agreement with an individual to blog or post.
- Pay’s an individual to blog or post.
- Provides free accommodations or travel to an individual for a Caribou event or experience.
- Provides discounts, or other incentives to an individual.
- Provides an individual with free samples to review on social media platforms.
- Provides an individual with free samples after that person has blogged or posted independently, especially if providing the free samples creates the expectation of additional free samples (which makes the individual a Sponsored Endorser going forward, not retroactively).
- Engages affiliate marketers to advertise, blog, endorse, or sell on Caribou’s behalf (making the affiliates and their employees Sponsored Endorsers).
This list, though comprehensive, is not exhaustive. Check with the Caribou legal department for any questions about whether Caribou behavior or actions has created or will create a Material Connection with a third party.
Sponsored Endorsers Must Comply with Caribou Standards of Conduct
With respect to promotional statements or other claims made on social media platforms about Caribou and its products, Sponsored Endorsers must adhere to the following principles:
- Only make statements that:
- reflect the Sponsored Endorser’s honest beliefs, opinions, or experiences; and
- are transparent about the Sponsored Endorser’s connection to Caribou.
- Sponsored Endorsers may not:
- make deceptive or misleading claims to consumers about Caribou products, or Caribou’s competitors’ products;
- make any claims about Caribou products, or its competitors’ products, that are not backed up by evidence;
- disclose any Caribou confidential information;
- engage in any communication that is defamatory or infringes upon the intellectual property, privacy, or publicity rights of others;
- offer Caribou products for resale;
- make offensive comments that have the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating or hostile environment;
- use racial or ethnic slurs, personal insults, obscenity, or other offensive language; and
- make any comments or post any content that in any way promotes unsafe activities that could lead to an unsafe situation involving Caribou’s consumers or other individuals.
- Sponsored Endorsers must adhere to:
- any additional guidelines provided by Caribou, such as product and brand-specific program requirements.
Sponsored Endorsers must also refrain from creating fake followers or engagement on social media platforms, such as:
- Buying followers.
- Using bots to grow audience size by automating account creation, following, commenting, and liking.
Disclosing a Material Connection Clearly and Conspicuously
When posting about Caribou products, Caribou requires Sponsored Endorsers to disclose their Material Connection to Caribou clearly and conspicuously. If a Sponsored Endorser has multiple Material Connections to Caribou, the full extent should be disclosed.
This Policy does not require specific language to disclose a Material Connection, but Sponsored Endorsers must communicate the Material Connection effectively so that consumers:
- Can easily find it.
- Can easily understand it.
- Obtain sufficient information from it to make a judgment about the credibility of the endorsement.
Consult Appendix A to this Policy for examples of language that successfully communicate a Material Connection, and language that does not do so.
To ensure a disclosure is clear and conspicuous, appropriate consideration should be given to the limitations and nature of the platform being used. Sponsored Endorsers must:
- Ensure the disclosure is:
- well-placed so it can be easily noticed; and
- prominent so it can be easily read.
- Avoid burying the disclosure:
- in a bio;
- below the fold;
- in a hyperlink, like a “Legal” or “Disclosure” button; or
- among a series of hashtags, other disclosures, or general copy.
- Superimpose a Material Connection disclosure on images, including on Snapchat and Instagram Stories. The disclosure should be:
- easy to notice and read in the time that followers have to look at the image; and
- well-contrasted against the image.
- In video posts, including podcasts:
- place the disclosure both within the video itself, and in the description of the video; and
- display the disclosure long enough for a consumer to be able to read and understand it.
- In Instagram posts, disclose a Material Connection before the “More” button.
- For a live stream, repeat the disclosure as needed to ensure that consumers see it or keep it posted throughout the live stream.
- If the posts are part of an online chat or tweets, or a similar thread, make the disclosure clearly in the first entry into the conversation thread, and then add to subsequent entries at 3-10 entry intervals depending on the media and the length of the thread.
- Disclose the Material Connection even when just tagging Caribou or its products in a photo.
A social media platform may have a required tool or feature for paid endorsements. Although these tools or features must be used to comply with the platform’s rules, they should not be relied on alone to meet FTC disclosure requirements.
When a Sponsored Endorser Fails to Comply with This Policy
Caribou may take reasonable steps to correct any failure to disclose a Material Connection or communication of any unsubstantiated claims by a Sponsored Endorser. The Caribou team may take the following steps:
- If an agency or other third party manages or is otherwise involved with the Sponsored Endorser relationship, alert the third party to the issue.
- Consult with the Caribou legal department to determine whether a correction is needed, and how best to make it.
- If needed, require the Sponsored Endorser to make the correction or post the correction on the Sponsored Endorser’s post or page directly.
- Determine if it is necessary to:
- withhold payment from the Sponsored Endorser; or
- terminate the relationship with the Sponsored Endorser.
All written agreements with Sponsored Endorsers must give Caribou the right to take any of these corrective measures for noncompliance with this Policy.
Compliance with Related Policies
All other Caribou policies that apply to social media and/or user generated content use remain in full force and effect.
BEST PRACTICES FOR DISCLOSURE LANGUAGE
As stated in the Policy, Sponsored Endorsers are required to disclose Material Connections to Caribou. For certain campaigns, Caribou may require Sponsored Endorsers to use specific disclosure language. Listed below is sample disclosure language. Alternative but substantively comparable language may also be used where appropriate. Caribou prohibits certain hashtags and other disclosure practices specifically found by the FTC as insufficient. The goal for a Material Connection disclosure is to ensure it is readily seen and understood by consumers and accurately describes Caribou’s relationship with the Sponsored Endorser.
Statements about the Material Connection should identify the nature of the connection, such as:
- For receipt of free products:
- I received free bags of coffee from Caribou;
- Caribou sent me free products or samples to review;
- Caribou gave me this product to try; or
- Thanks Caribou for dropping free beverages off at the studio.
- For paid Sponsored Endorsers:
- I was paid by Caribou;
- I was hired by Caribou to post about its products, including this bag of La Minita coffee;
- I have partnered with Caribou to promote its handcrafted beverages and other products; or
- I am a paid brand ambassador for Caribou.
- For receipt of travel and accommodations:
- Caribou paid for my travel and hotel to visit its headquarters/sample its products/attend the launch of its new product/etc.
- For receipt of a prize to be given away in a sweepstakes or contest:
- Caribou is providing the prize[s] for this program at no cost to me.
- For incentivized consumer reviews:
- I received a sweepstakes entry/discount/coupon for making this review.
- I am part of Caribou’s program that gives me free samples/coupons/discounts; or
- Reviewers on this page received a sweepstakes entry/discount/coupon for making their reviews.
- For other Material Connections:
- “Paid ad”; or
- “Ad:” (this would go at the beginning of the statement to indicate the statement is an ad).
If using a hashtag to identify a Material Connection, make it unambiguous, such as:
- For receipt of free products:
- For paid Sponsored Endorsers:
Avoid ambiguous hashtags to identify Material Connections, such as:
Additionally, if a Sponsored Endorser has posted a “Disclosure and Relationships Statement” section on their blog, website, profile page, or similar site, the statement should:
- Fully disclose how the endorser is working with Caribou.
- Disclose how the endorser works with other companies generally.
- List any conflicts of interest that may affect the credibility of the sponsored or paid reviews.