World Cup

Poppleston Allen: Bookies risk enforcement with ex-player World Cup campaigns

The 2022 FIFA World Cup has cast a spotlight on the sports industry in several ways outside the main sporting narrative, including betting.

Whilst much of the media frenzy around the non-sporting elements of the tournament focused on the controversial decision to name Qatar as host nation, cooperation between bookmakers and sporting figures has also hit the headlines.

SBC News Poppleston Allen: Bookies risk enforcement with ex-player World Cup campaigns
Robbie Keane, Betway ambassador

Yesterday, The Guardian published an article outlining how prominent former footballers Peter Crouch, Robbie Keane and Harry Redknapp have all participated in marketing and content campaigns with sportsbooks.

Reaching out to SBC to offer its legal expert opinion on the matter, Poppleston Allen – which has a specialist betting and gaming division – observed that firms are likely taking note of the Advertising Standards Authority’s (ASA) rules on celebrity endorsements.

Richard Bradley, Poppleston Allen Partner, explained: “It’s clear that gambling companies have taken note of the new rules regarding celebrity endorsements because we are not seeing the same type of football stars being used to advertise gambling for this World Cup tournament as has been the case in the past.

“What we are seeing instead are retired players and managers known for commentary fronting campaigns.”

As The Guardian noted, the aforementioned trio of Crouch, Keane and Redknapp are all actively working with betting companies this year – Keane being the latest, announced as a brand ambassador for Betway last month. 

The former Manchester United and Republic of Ireland striker is promoting the brand’s nationwide campaign ‘Betting Better’, marketing the operator as ‘the UK’s number 1 betting app, built for ease’.

Meanwhile, long-term Paddy Power collaborator Crouch starred in the Flutter Entertainment brand’s latest video commercial ahead of the World Cup – ‘Where were you in 22?’ – whilst Rednapp is continuing his work with BetVictor, appearing in advertising and providing commentary.

SBC News Poppleston Allen: Bookies risk enforcement with ex-player World Cup campaigns
Peter Crouch, Paddy Power

The use of these former footballers – many of whom are familiar to an older UK sporting audience – may be an attractive marketing proposition for bookmakers given the ASA’s recent code changes.

Bradley continued: “Depending on the circumstances, this may or may not be acceptable under the recently introduced Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) guidance, gambling and lotteries advertising: protecting under-18s.

“The guidance makes clear that top footballers fall into the high-risk category and should not  be used in advertising by gambling companies. 

“However, retired footballers fall into either the moderate-risk or low-risk categories and therefore there is some degree of subjectivity as to whether or not any given celebrity is considered to be of strong appeal to under-18s.”

Introduced in May, the ASA’s rule changes prohibit content, imagery themes and characters with a ‘strong level of appeal to under-18s’, according to Andy Taylor, Regulatory Policy Executive at the Committee on Advertising Practices (CAP).

This includes reality TV stars and references to video games – but most crucially to bookmakers and their target audience, sports people. 

It is not entirely clear, however, whether this ban applies only to current athletes but also to former sports figures – such as Crouch, Redknapp and Keane – as Popppleston Allen noted. 

Bradley concluded: “There’s a checklist of marketing steps that should be taken before using celebrities, but given how new the regulations are and the fact they are thus far untested, it’s possible a gambling company may make the wrong judgement call in what is the first major tournament since their introduction.

“They could therefore be at risk of enforcement action from the ASA, but any such  enforcement action should make it clear to all parties what is and isn’t going to be  considered acceptable in future.”

The World Cup comes at a time of heightened financial pressure for many consumers across the UK due to the combination of the costs of living crisis and the Christmas period.

In the Netherlands, the Kansspelautoriteit (KSA) has urged bookmakers to practise caution in their World Cup marketing strategies in order to avoid the risk of political ramifications.

Back in the UK, as the Gambling Act review judgement is still apparently underway, should the ‘perfect storm’ of gambling harm predicted by organisations such as GambleAware come true, it could have a significant legislative impact on the industry moving forward.

SBC News Poppleston Allen: Bookies risk enforcement with ex-player World Cup campaigns

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