The Advertising Standards Authority (“ASA”) last month ruled gambling ads on Twitter containing images of Premier League football managers were likely to strongly appeal to under-18s. It therefore determined the Committees of Advertising Practice (“CAP”) Code, which regulates non-broadcast advertising in the UK, had been breached.
The decision illustrates the ASA’s logic when analysing whether gambling ads are CAP-compliant, and also the highlights the importance of ensuring any gambling advertising is not directed towards children.
Ladbrokes posted two tweets featuring images of Premier League managers on Twitter, which it then paid to have promoted. The first featured manager Eddie Howe and referred to his success in 2023 in comparison to 2022. The second tweet featured images of four managers with odds by their names and the text “NEXT MANAGER TO LEAVE ODDS”.
ASA challenge and decision
The ASA challenged the ads holding they were likely to be of strong appeal to under-18s, and, therefore, in breach of the CAP Code.
Ladbrokes argued the first tweet was editorial content celebrating Eddie Howe’s recent success and pointed to its efforts to mitigate Twitter’s reliance on self-verification of age by restricting its advertising to over-25s, not just over-18s. Its data on impressions suggested no viewers of the tweets were under 25.
Ladbrokes did not dispute the commercial nature of the second tweet and said it would take concrete steps to prevent future adverts from taking this format, which was clearly in breach of the CAP Code.
The ASA found both tweets were marketing communications under the CAP Code because they were paid-for promotions. All individuals featured were current Premier League managers and well known to followers of football, including children. There was, therefore, a strong appeal to under-18s.
The adverts would have been acceptable in a venue where under-18s could be totally excluded, such as a marketing list verified through payment data.
However, numerous existing ASA rulings confirm the weak age-verification system on Twitter meant it was not an acceptable venue.
- Gambling advertising on social media such as Twitter is always at risk of breaching the CAP Code because age-verification is not reliable on many social media platforms.
- Football, and the Premier League in particular, has strong under-18 appeal in the UK, with both managers and players well-known to this age group. This makes CAP-compliant gambling advertising very difficult.
- Where a post is a paid-for promotion, it is difficult to argue it falls outside the scope of CAP, even if it does not take the overt form of a gambling advert.
The Hamlins team has extensive experience in advertising law and regulation. If would like to find out how we might be able to advise you in this area, please contact Matthew Pryke