Advertising Standard Agency’s rules on gambling adverts

Are gambling companies breaching the ‘strong appeal’ rule when using sports personalities in their advertisements?

Further to our previous article on why gambling advertisers should be mindful of complying with the new advertising rules “A MUCH CHANGED WORLD CUP”, two recent rulings have been handed down by the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

These rulings provide a helpful context to the rules prohibiting adverts for gambling and lotteries that have a “strong appeal” to those under the age of 18, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture.

Background to the cases
The rulings concerned two adverts featuring retired top-flight footballers. One being a television advert for Paddy Power with a Christmas focus, featuring Peter Crouch, and the second being a promoted tweet for Sky Bet, featuring an image of Micah Richards.

Notably, the rulings came just one month after the Advertising Standard Authority upheld a complaint relating to a Twitter post published by the gambling brand, Ladbrokes, which featured images of multiple current Premier League footballers. It therefore held a ‘strong appeal’ to those under the age of 18.

The two claims were defended similarly by the respective companies. Sky Bet, defending its decision to feature Micah Richards in the tweet, stated that it believed the ex-footballer was now more widely regarded as a football pundit.

Sky Bet said it had conducted research into Richards’ social media profiles and found that he did not have active public accounts on platforms such as Tiktok or Twitch, which are most commonly associated with young people. In respect of the active public accounts that Richards does have, data from his Instagram and Twitter accounts showed that less than 5% of his followers on the respective sites were aged 19 or younger.

Sky Bet added that Richards’ appearances on other TV shows, such as A League of Their Own and Celebrity Gogglebox, were both usually broadcast after 9pm and not of strong appeal to those under the age of 18.

With regards to the other claim, Paddy Power also stated that it believed that Crouch was more widely recognised as a pundit and entertainer than as a former Premier League footballer. His football career had ended in 2019, which Paddy Power argued could not be considered a ‘recent’ retirement, and he had not played in the Premier League for a number of years prior to that.

The company cited the BCAP guidance which states that long-retired footballers who were now known for punditry were of low-risk of strong appeal to children. This was supported by the fact that less than 0.5% of his 1.5 million followers on Twitter were under the age of 18.

What did the ASA decide?
The ASA concurred with Sky Bet, explaining that there was nothing in the way Richards was presented in the advert itself that would have “strongly attracted the attention of under-18s” or was likely to render him of “strong appeal”.

Similarly, the ASA ruled in Paddy Power’s favour, despite stating that the Christmas focus of the advert made it more likely to resonate with under-18s. The reason for this decision was because the advert did not refer specifically to aspects of Christmas, such as Father Christmas, that would have appealed strongly to children.

The ASA therefore ruled in favour of the two rival gambling brands and provided some key considerations for companies to undertake before using footballing or sporting personalities in their gambling adverts.

If you have any queries on this article or require any advice on your advertising strategies, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the Commercial team.

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