Who: The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and Hillside (UK Sports) ENC t/a bet365
Where: United Kingdom
When: 14 June 2023
Law stated as at: 7 July 2023
In January 2023, bet365 made a promotional post featuring an image of the boxer Chris Eubank Jr. and a caption saying “It’s fight week! Chris Eubank Jr and Liam Smith will be Unleashed in Manchester. Click here for latest odds“. The ASA challenged whether this was likely to be a breach of the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing (CAP Code) on the basis that this was a gambling ad that featured an individual who was likely to have strong appeal to children. The CAP Code states that marketing communications for gambling products must not be likely to be of strong appeal to children or young persons, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture.
Bet365 disputed the allegations on the grounds that their social media channels were age-gated and that targeted ads were only served to users over 25 years where proper age verification was not possible. Bet365 also said that the ad in question was only served to users aged 25 years and over and that they had carried out an internal risk assessment before the ad was published. Their risk assessment had concluded that Chris Eubank Jr did not have appeal to under 18s, in accordance with CAP’s guidance, in particular because boxing is seen as adult-oriented sport. Bet365 further highlighted that they have robust compliance and monitoring processes in place across all of their UK marketing channels. Social media platform where the ad appeared also confirmed that the promoted post was not in breach of its advertising policies and that they had not received any complaints about the ad.
The ASA did not uphold the complaint because: (i) the proportion of Chris Eubank Jr’s social media followers (across different social media platforms) that were registered as under 18 was comparatively low in the context of his total audience (approximately 21,000 out of a total of 1.7 million); (ii) although Chris Eubank Jr had appeared on Celebrity Gogglebox, his appearance had been limited and this had been broadcast after 9pm and was therefore primarily aimed at an adult audience; (iii) the viewing data for the boxing match being promoted showed that the majority of viewers were adults; and (iv) there was nothing in the way that Chris Eubank Jr was presented in the ad that would strongly attract the attention of under-18s.
Taking these factors into account, the ASA considered that the ad was unlikely to be of strong appeal to children and was therefore not in breach of the CAP Code. However, they remarked that there was still some moderate risk because under-18s could not be completely excluded from the medium in which the ads appeared and because adult-oriented sportspeople could still have some appeal to under-18s (particularly if they have a large social media presence).
Why this matters:
This ruling is a useful example of the factors that the ASA will take into account when assessing whether an ad appeals to children. Sellers of age-restricted products and services should take note, particularly when using celebrity endorsements. In this adjudication the ASA not only examined the ad itself, but took a holistic approach to assessing Chris Eubank Jr’s general appeal and audience across other forms of media and social media. Bet365 was able to successfully defend the claim in this instance. However, gambling companies are still advised to err on the side of caution and conduct thorough risk assessments, particularly when the ad features a celebrity.