SBC News BetMGM and Chris Rock ad ruled in line with UK ASA code

BetMGM and Chris Rock ad ruled in line with UK ASA code

BetMGM’s launch in the UK has attracted some criticism directed to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) over the use of an advert featuring high-profile comedian Chris Rock.

Three complaints have questioned the use of Rock as a brand ambassador based on suspicions that he might attract an audience under the age of 18.

The ad itself aired on 4 October 2023 across a number of communication channels. The ad depicts the comedian taking a golden speedboat with a lion, travelling from the Bellagio Fountains in Las Vegas to the River Thames in London, ushering in a “golden era” for sports betting and online casino.

Following the complaints’ filing, BetMGM’s UK operating partner LeoVegas assured that an extensive process had taken place to fully assess Rock’s suitability and the risk he poses to under-18s, which was found to be relatively low.

BetMGM believed that because he was 58 years of age and was not a UK-based personality, he was not likely to be known to under-18s in the UK. In addition, the operator noted that Rock is “a well-known adult-orientated stand-up comedian and actor who, when appearing visually as himself, was associated with adult themes”, to which the ASA agreed.

The operator claimed that Rock, when appearing visually as himself, met the criteria despite his past work with child-focused animated productions such as the Madagascar franchise, as “those characters did not visually depict Mr Rock as himself”.

Also, BetMGM stated that those audiences who were impacted by the franchise’s movie releases predominately between 2005-2008 would now be over 18, while he had a significantly reduced role in the final film aired in 2014.

The operator commented on Rock’s work as a narrator in the 2020 film The Witches, noting that since his character was “not a starring role or aspirational to children, he would not be considered appealing to those under 18”, while also spotlighting that the film was a dark fantasy horror with a UK release on certain paid-for-streaming platforms.

The operator highlighted that Rock’s appearance in a 2023 Paw Patrol film lasted for five seconds and 15 words, which was found to be “insignificant and therefore the risk of his character having strong appeal to under-18s was extremely low”.

ASA agreed with all of the above arguments provided, saying: “Because all of the characters he portrayed in the films that we considered would strongly appeal to children were limited to voice-over roles, and there were no visual or physical similarities between the characters he portrayed and his appearance in the ad, we considered that, within the context of his overall career profile, he would likely not be of strong appeal to under-18s in the UK.”

Details were also provided on Rock’s social media accounts, where he was active only on a small number of platforms. The operator stated that Rock had 22 million followers globally across social media, with 11.7 million across the two platforms where he was active – X and Instagram. Of these accounts, 99.78 per cent of his followers were over 18 in July 2023.

These platforms also focused on marketing his adult comedy shows, political matters and adult humour. As a result, BetMGM believed both the demographic data and the content demonstrated Rock was not of strong appeal to under-18s – something that ASA also agreed with.

As a result, the ASA “concluded that the ad was not of strong appeal to children or young persons” and that the ad was investigated “under BCAP Code rules 17.4 and 17.4.5 (Gambling), but did not find it in breach”, so no further action will be taken.

You can watch the ad on YouTube below:

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