ASA Sky Bet/Paddy power
Paddy Power's Christmas World Cup ad with Peter Crouch

Santa omission leads to ASA ruling in Flutter’s favour on ex-footballer ads

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ruled in favour of Flutter Entertainment’s Paddy Power and Sky Bet sportsbook brands. 

In both cases, two complainants argued that two separate adverts involving retired footballers – Peter Crouch with Paddy Power and Micah Richards with Sky Bet – had appeal to under-18 audiences.

SBC News Santa omission leads to ASA ruling in Flutter’s favour on ex-footballer ads
Peter Crouch

Reaching out to SBC, Felix Faulkner, Solicitor at Poppleston Allen, shared his views that the rulings demonstrate that not all sports figures are ‘out of bounds’ for operators under Committee on Advertising Practice (CAP) requirements.

New rules adopted last year saw the prohibition of the use of notable personalities who may have strong appeal to under-18s, such as prominent sportspeople, particularly footballers. 

In its assessment, the ASA stated that both former England players Crouch and Richards were retired and had not competed professionally since 2019 and 2015 respectively.

As such, both are classified as ‘moderate risk’ under the CAP ruling, meaning that their appeal to younger audiences must be judged based upon their social media activity and followers on such platforms.

Faulkner commented: “This week’s ASA rulings appear to suggest that while the guidance gambling and lotteries advertising: protecting under-18s notes that football as a sport is of strong appeal to children, not everyone associated with it is out of bounds when it comes to gambling advertising.

“The guidance puts retired footballers who have moved into commentary/punditry in the ‘moderate risk’ category and says their appeal will be assessed on the basis of their social and other media profiles.

“These rulings give the industry strong insight into what such an assessment looks like in practice and should prove instructive to operators considering former footballers for their marketing.”

SBC News Santa omission leads to ASA ruling in Flutter’s favour on ex-footballer ads
Micah Richards

Both ex-athletes in question are currently widely known for their punditry activities, with Crouch working for BT Sport and Richards for the BBC’s Match of the Day programme as well as working as a Paddy Power and Sky Bet brand ambassadors. 

The ASA agreed with both companies’ assertions that this means that the general audience for both ex-players is among older demographic groups, noting that neither had an extensive social media presence outside of Twitter and Instagram (IG).

Additionally, the authority added that Twitter is a ‘media environment where users self-verified on customer sign-up and did not use robust age-verification’ and that Crouch’s Instagram account has been largely inactive for some time.

In the case of Richards, Sky Bet was able to prove that the vast majority of the personalities’ social media followers were from older demographics.

Just 0.07% of his IG followers were aged between 0-16 and 2.19% between 17-19, whilst an even lower 0.04% of his Twitter audience were aged between 0-16 and 2.15% were aged between 17-19.

Lastly, the Paddy Power ad involving Crouch was criticised by the complainants for having a Christmas theme. However, the ASA argued that there was nothing about the material that would appeal to children in this manner, such as depictions of Santa Claus.

Faulkner noted that the ruling falls directly in contrast to the ASA’s decision against Ladbrokes in December, due to the Entain bookmaker using active Premier League players in a marketing tweet.

The solicitor concluded: “In both cases, the operators concerned appear to have been able to convince the regulator that the celebrities in question were not of strong appeal to children, with both giving very detailed evidence on how they had come to this conclusion. 

“This included information on the length of time that had elapsed since they played high-profile football, both having retired in 2019, statistics on their social media followings and audience demographics of their other media work.

“These rulings are beneficial in providing a greater understanding of how the ASA will apply the new rules and where it may be acceptable for gambling companies to feature ex-footballers in their marketing, so long as they undertake rigorous research into their other activities and social media profiles to make sure these do not have strong appeal to children.”

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