The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ordered Ladbrokes to remove a tweet after the bookmaker was found to have violated Committee on Advertising Practice (CAP) rules.
In October 2022, the Entain sports betting brand published a tweet featuring a reel of Premier League footballers Philippe Coutinho, Jesse Lingard and Kalidou Koulibaly.
The prominent footballers were pictured alongside text reading “Can these big summer signings make the question marks over their performances go away?’, against a backdrop of question marks.
After viewing the tweet, the ASA challenged whether the advert included individuals ‘who were likely to have a strong appeal to those under-18 years of age’, in breach of the CAP code.
Back in April, the CAP updated its standards around betting advertising, enforcing that people who may appeal to under-18s – such as famous sports stars – cannot be featured in operator marketing. The new rules came into effect on 1 October, that same month.
In its response to the ASA’s challenge, Ladbrokes explained that the ad had been developed in-house as brand engagement material, and did not feature promotional material, calls to action or links to its betting site.
The firm also said that its twitter feed and the tweets on it could not be accessed by users who are not verified as being over 18 by the platform itself, and that its tweets were targeted to only over-25s, having recognised that Twitter allows users to self-verify their age.
Lastly, Ladbrokes provided data from Twitter showing that the ad had only reached the target audience of 25 years and over, with 0% out of a total of 50,666 impressions being under 20 years old.
The ASA, however, has upheld its challenge, ordering Ladbrokes to remove and not re-use the ad again ‘in its current form’, adding that the bookmaker should not include anyone with ‘strong appeal to those under 18 years of age’ again.
A statement from the authority explained: “The ASA noted that Premier League footballers were considered high risk within the CAP guidance “Gambling and lotteries: Protecting under-18s” in terms of how likely they were to be of strong appeal to under-18s.
“Football was an activity in which a very significant proportion of under-18s participated directly on a frequent basis, and had a general interest in through following professional teams and players across a variety of media.
“There was also a highly developed infrastructure around organised participation and the sport had an exceptionally high media profile including popular, dedicated media for under-18s. Those who played at an elite level were likely to appeal strongly to children.”
Due to Coutinho, Lingard and Koulibaly all being prominent Premier League footballers, as well as previously or currently playing at international level, the ASA judged that they would be well recognised by younger audiences.
Despite Ladborkes’ efforts to limit exposure of the ad to over-25s, the ASA upheld that ‘for all intents and purposes’, the ad could not be entirely excluded from a younger audience, which could not be guaranteed without robust age-verification.
The ASA explained: “Because Twitter was a media environment where users self-verified on customer sign-up, and did not use robust age-verification, we considered that Ladbrokes had not excluded under-18s from the audience with the highest level of accuracy required for ads the content of which was likely to appeal strongly to under-18s.”