The Co-operative Group has had its knuckles rapped over an “irresponsible” radio ad the Advertising Standards Authority said implied it was desirable to drink frequently.

The ASA upheld that the inclusion of the slogan “Little, often, Co-op” in conjunction with the ad for alcohol products was irresponsible.

The ad in August stated: “Sun’s out, garden chair, drinks. In-laws, great, drinks. Cricket, wicket, drinks. At your local Co-op selected spirits are just £13 each. Little, often, Co-op. Participating stores, subject to availability. 70cl, ends 1 September. Please drink responsibly.”

The Co-op argued that it used the slogan “Little. often. Co-op” to refer to the habits of its customers across its brand communications to promote a variety of products, but it was never used to refer to consumption of those products.

The mutual said the slogan was always stated distinctly and separately from wording relating to the featured products and there was no intention to imply, condone or encourage irresponsible or immoderate drinking.

It said the repetition of the word “drinks” was a reference to scenarios in which customers might purchase the featured products, and was not used to condone or encourage immoderate drinking, nor suggest buying rounds of drinks.

The Co-op also pointed out that the ad, created by agency Leo Burnett, included the words “please drink responsibly”.

The ASA did not consider the slogan “Little, often. Co-op” was inherently problematic for use in an ad for alcohol, but that it needed to be considered in the context of the particular ad.

“In this case the ad included reference to three brief scenarios followed by “drinks”, which we considered would be understood by listeners to refer to the consumption of alcohol,” the ASA said.

The scenarios were all spoken by the same person and, in combination with the use of the slogan and the fact the ad was for spirits, the ASA considered that the ad implied it was desirable to drink frequently.

“We therefore concluded that the ad was irresponsible,” the ASA said.

The independent regulator ruled that the ad must not appear again in the same form and told The Co-op to take care when using its slogan in ads for alcohol to ensure it did not condone or encourage immoderate drinking.

A spokesman for The Co-operative Group said it took its responsibility to market alcohol “very seriously” and was disappointed its summer radio ad led to a complaint.

“We are sorry and will continue to closely review our radio scripts in future.”