Who: The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA); the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP); and Bonne Terre Ltd t/a Sky Bet (Sky Bet)
Where: United Kingdom
When: 18 October 2023
Law stated as at: 19 October 2023
The ASA has recently upheld a complaint against Sky Bet, in a decision that forms part of its wider work to ban gambling ads which are likely to be of strong appeal to children and young people under-18.
As of 1 October 2022, revised rules provide that marketing communications for gambling must not include a person or character whose example is likely to be followed by or who has a “strong appeal” to those aged under 18.
This most recent ruling against Sky Bet featured a promoted social media post, published on 9 February 2023, which included a video clip from The Overlap football podcast. It showed Gary Neville discussing who may win the Premier League and whether he was changing his mind on his initial prediction “Thanks to Man City”. The Sky Bet logo was present as well as text reading “BROUGHT TO YOU BY SKY BET” and the BeGambleAware logo.
The ASA challenged whether the ad was likely to be of strong appeal to those under 18 years of age.
Sky Bet responded to the challenge by arguing they worked extensively with CAP to ensure compliance, and claimed Mr Neville did not have strong appeal to under 18s. Sky Bet argued Mr Neville met BCAP Guidance’s definition of “long retired” and was a football pundit, political commentator and successful businessman who appealed to adults. Even in relation to his punditry, it was argued that these were generally hosted later in the evening and that the punditry-based discussion element of the shows were not as appealing to children as the football itself.
SkyBet also provided evidence that from Mr Neville’s social media followers, only a very small percentage of followers were aged 13-17. Further, only 0.5% of viewers from the advertised episode of The Overlap were aged 13-17.
Despite this, the ASA ruled that while not being of strong appeal to children for Neville’s football career, he may have been of strong appeal due to his punditry work. More importantly, despite Sky Bet showing small percentages of Mr Neville’s social media followers being persons under 18 years old, the ASA ruled that given his general popularity, this still equated to 135,000 followers in absolute terms. Therefore, the ASA considered that because he had such a large number of social media followers that were under 18, he was of strong appeal to under 18s.
Why this matters:
In February this year, the ASA ruled in favour of two gambling companies whose ads featured Peter Crouch and Micah Richards respectively. These two ex-footballers were deemed not to be of strong appeal to under 18s. This latest ruling against Sky Bet moves in a different direction as despite being a retired sportsman, Mr Neville can still have strong appeal to children given his other work.
Most critically for gambling advertisers, the ASA ruled that Mr Neville’s number of followers who were under 18 in absolute terms was a deciding factor in upholding their complaint. This means gambling advertisers must consider someone’s absolute popularity, regardless of proportional age distribution among followers, to determine whether they would have strong appeal to children and therefore be in breach of the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing.