SBC News LeoVegas brand BetUK asked by the ASA to take down betting ad

LeoVegas brand BetUK asked by the ASA to take down betting ad

The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has issued its response to two recent cases of gambling advertising and their potential appeal to under-18s.

LeoVegas’ BetUK

The first ad was produced by the LeoVegas brand, BetUK, and was heard on the radio in September last year. In it, former English football player of Nigerian descent Adebayo Akinfenwa in his role as a BetUK brand ambassador said: “You can now find a range of tools on the BetUK website. You can set deposit limits, schedule reality checks and set timeouts to help you stay in control. Always gamble responsibly at BetUK.”

The issue came from the fact that Akinfenwa’s career as a football player could have influenced underaged children to go and try out sports betting. 

Countering the suspicions, BetUK informed the ASA that it had taken all necessary due diligence to avoid breaching the Gambling and Lotteries advertising laws. 

According to the firm, Akinfenwa was unlikely to appeal strongly to under-18s first of all due to his age – he was 41 at the time the advert played out. Secondly, BetUK argued that the former player wasn’t involved with any high-level clubs, British nor international, spending all of his career playing for League One and League Two clubs, with the exception of one season in the Championship. 

Off the pitch, Akinfenwa has a clothing range that does not target specifically children, but is marketed to people between the ages of 16 and 66, BetUK further added. 

And finally, the ad itself has been broadcasted during a radio show which has a predominantly adult audience.

Radiocentre, the UK’s industry body for commercial radio, initially agreed with the response provided and did not follow up with additional action.

Banned for being ‘a beast’ 

On a further assessment however, ASA has decided that Akinfenwa’s physical abilities alone are a cause for concern. 

Currently, the ASA’s UK Code of Broadcasting Advertising (BCAP) classifies former and current players in lower league and non-league clubs as “low risk”. This however could be increased to a “moderate risk” depending on the footballer’s social media presence off the pitch. 

The ASA’s careful analysis concluded that Akinfenwa possesses an “impressive physical strength”, thus winning him the nickname ‘The Beast’. To reflect his real-life appearance, he was the strongest-rated player in various editions of the football video game FIFA – which is highly popular among children. 

The ASA’s observation of Akinfenwa “being an extremely strong football player” concluded that his appearance has essentially led to some FIFA players viewing him as a “cult hero”.

To support its findings, the ASA also presented data from the player’s following across various social media platforms. 

“Although figures for under-18 followers on TikTok, Facebook, Twitter/X and YouTube were not available, of his 1.3 million Instagram followers, 8% were registered as under 18, which amounted to around 116,000 users,” the ASA said. 

“Of his 312,000 Snapchat followers, 13% were registered as under 18 years, which amounted to around 41,000 followers. Therefore, across his active social media accounts he had at least 157,000 followers who were under 18 years.”

By combining all of the above, the advertising regulator concluded that Akinfenwa was “unusually well-known for a former lower league footballer”, unprecedentedly raising his danger levels from ‘low risk’ to ‘high risk’. 

Therefore, BetUK has been ordered to take down the ad in its current form and not to include personalities that might have a strong appeal to under-18s in future advertising projects. 

Lucky Cow Bingo 

The second case is about a TV ad by Lucky Cow Bingo from the end of 2023, which has raised concerns that it could appeal to under-18s due to the imagery it uses. 

The ad featured a “cow standing on its hind legs dancing to music against a bright purple background”. Accompanying the cow was the following voiceover: “Someone’s happy. Get that lucky cow feeling with The home of brilliant bingo, super slots and beautiful bonuses like this.”

Jumpman Gaming, the creative minds behind the ad, appealed by saying that the dancing cow character is nothing more than a visual representation of the “Lucky Cow” feeling that comes with using the brand’s services.  

The company assured that it had taken every measure to ensure that the cow’s depiction, although animated, is far from being cuddly or cute, and that it does not possess any similarity to toys or animations that might be known by children. 

Furthermore, the music used in the advert has been selected carefully to avoid appealing to minors. 

All of the above has apparently been also agreed with by Clearcast – the organisation that pre-approves British television advertising. 

The lucky cow’s charm appears to have also worked in favour of Jumpman Gaming. 

ASA’s final ruling as stated on its website is that “the cow was not a real animal”, did not include any exaggerated features, nor did it resemble anything that might appeal to children, hence sparing Jumpman Gaming a slap on the wrist.

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