Further guidance from the ASA on the ‘strong appeal’ test for sports personalities in gambling ads

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MediaWrites has previously reported on ASA rulings on the Paddy Power and SkyBet adverts featuring Peter Crouch and Micah Richards and the Betvictor advert featuring Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets.

The ASA has now published a further ruling on a bet365 advert featuring an image of Chris Eubank Jr., promoting his fight with Liam Smith. The latest ruling provides further guidance on when gambling ads may fall foul of the ‘strong appeal’ test, this time looking at sports personalities outside of football. The full ruling is available here.

We think the most interesting aspect of this decision is that the ASA looked at the athlete’s social media following holistically across all social media platforms. A high proportion of under-18 followers on one platform, here TikTok, did not necessarily indicate a strong appeal to under-18s if there is a significant enough proportion of adult followers on other platforms to offset this in absolute terms.

Ruling

Bet365 claimed that the ad was not likely to be of strong appeal to under-18s for the following reasons:

  • Channels: the ad was promoted on social media. Bet365’s social media channels are age-gated to over-18s. In the absence of robust age verification on the channel, the ad was only aimed at those over 25 whose data indicated their interest in the content. Excluded gamblers and those at high risk of gambling related harm were not targeted by the ad.
  • Boxing: bet365 argued boxing was an adult-orientated sport. Data indicated that there were no viewers of the Chris Eubank Jr. and Liam Smith fight aged under-24 and viewers were predominantly aged in the range 35 to 54. Even on YouTube, only 0.5% of viewers of the upload were registered as under-18.
  • Athlete: bet365 claimed only 0.6% of Chris Eubank Jr.’s social media followers were under-18. Although 31.7% of his TikTok followers were under-18 he only had 21,300 total followers on TikTok and bet3565 did not have a profile or presence on that platform. Whilst Chris Eubank Jr. had appeared on Celebrity Gogglebox, bet365 referred to a previous ASA ruling which stated this programme was “primarily aimed at an adult audience”.

The ASA did not uphold the ruling. The following reasons were cited:

  • Boxing: the ASA agreed that boxing was an adult-oriented sport and was unlikely to be of inherent strong appeal to under-18s. The BARB viewing data and the viewing data on YouTube for the boxing match clearly showed that the majority of viewers of the Chris Eubank Jr. and Liam Smith fight were adults.
  • Athlete: Chis Eubank Jr. had 1.7 million followers across all platforms so the TikTok figure was not significant in absolute terms and did not imply strong appeal to under-18s. The ASA also noted Celebrity Gogglebox was broadcast after 9pm, was primarily aimed at an adult audience and Chris Eubank Jr. only appeared in the show for a few minutes, so his appearance on the show was unlikely to have resulted in a change in his level of appeal to under-18s.

The ASA concluded there was no breach of CAP Code rules 16.1, 16.3 and 16.3.12.

Comment

Previous ASA rulings have specifically focused on footballers. This latest ruling demonstrates that gambling ads featuring boxers are less likely to breach the ‘strong appeal’ test as boxing is less likely to be of ‘strong appeal’ to under-18s, though this is not an absolute rule and will depend upon the athlete in question.

It is also interesting to see that when assessing the appeal of an athlete to under-18s, the ASA will look at the athlete’s social media following holistically across all platforms. A high proportion of under-18 followers on one platform, here TikTok, will not necessarily indicate a strong appeal to under-18s if there is a significant enough proportion of adult followers on other platforms to offset this in absolute terms.

Finally, advertisers should note that although bet365 had attempted to age-gate the advert and target it at over 25s, compliance with the ‘strong appeal’ test was still required as under-18s could not be entirely excluded from the audience. Any gambling ads appearing on social media platforms will therefore need to comply with the test.

Mediawrites will continue to publish updates on the ‘strong appeal’ test in gambling ads when further ASA rulings are published.

 

Callum is an Associate in our Commercial Department, based in London. Callum advises clients across the gambling, sports, media and entertainment sectors on regulatory, transactional and commercial matters.
Elizabeth is a Partner in our Commercial Department and a member of our Media, Entertainment & Sport Group, based in London. Elizabeth concentrates her practice on the gambling and sports sectors, and has particular experience advising on online gambling regulation and a broad range of commercial gambling and sports matters.

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