The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has warned Ladbrokes over an advert featuring social media personality Jake Paul after his boxing match against Tommy Fury.
Ladbrokes had posted a tweet prior to the fight in February 2023 featuring an opinion poll and the question ‘So, we’ve got to ask the question… What’s next for Jake Paul? Vote here now’.
Twitter followers had the option to vote for whether Paul would win the rematch against Fury – after losing the initial bout – move into mixed martial arts, return to his YouTube career or join the WWE.
The ASA challenged whether the Entain sportsbook brand’s social media post breached Committee on Advertising Practice (CAP) rules due to potentially appealing to younger demographics.
In particular, the body cited Paul’s YouTube background and ‘large social media following’, and although the star has turned to the adult-oriented sport of boxing in recent years he retains a high-profile online presence.
The ASA pointed to his 65 million followers across YouTube, TikTok and Instagram, with around three million people on these registered as under 18. Additionally, the celebrity appeared on the Disney Channel children’s programme Bizaardvark between 2016-2018.
Assessing that Paul would still have ‘strong appeal’ to under-18s because of his social media and children’s TV background, the ASA concluded that Ladbrokes’ ad was ‘irresponsible’ and in breach of the CAP code.
Additionally, CAP guidance states that notable athletes involved in ‘adult-oriented sports’ such as boxing with ‘significant’ social media and general profiles are well-known to under-18s and can be considered ‘moderate risk’ regarding their appeal to this group.
In its response to the ASA challenge, Ladbrokes argued that boxing was not listed as moderate or high risk due to its largely adult audience. The ASA ruling shows that the CAP guidance may be interpreted differently regarding the phenomenon of ‘YouTube boxing’ which has emerged in recent years.
The bookmaker has been told to remove the ad and avoid featuring ‘a person or character who had strong appeal to those under 18 years of age’ in any future marketing material.
The ASA’s decision was made despite the authority acknowledging that Paul did not have any followers on twitter registered as under 18, and that the majority of his TikTok and YouTube followers are aged between 18-20 and his Instagram followers between 21-24.
Ladbrokes itself also responded to the challenge by pointing to the use of age-gating in its use of Twitter, preventing anyone under the age of 18 from viewing its content on the platform.
The company also uses targeting and boosting to push any content towards those aged 25 years and above, and of the 16,494 impressions with the post, 47.1% were aged between 20 and 29 years.
However, Ladbrokes did note that 13% of Paul’s Instagram followers, 16% of his YouTube subscribers and 18% of his TikTok followers were registered as being between 13-17 – although 0% of the personality’s Twitter followers are.
The ASA ruling contrasts with a previous decision in favour of bet365, which also centred around a piece of boxing-themed social media marketing. The authority determined that a tweet from the company featuring Chris Eubank Jr could not be considered as breaching the CAP code as the athlete had limited appeal to young people.
The main difference between these cases, however, is that Jake Paul is a ‘YouTube boxer’ or ‘social media boxer’ and a known influencer, whilst Eubank Jr is known only for his professional boxing, having been active in the sport since 2011.