On 8 January 2020, the Advertising Standards Authority (“ASA”) published their ruling in relation to a video published on YouTube by Betway Ltd ("Betway"). Contrary to Betway's view that the video contained no promotional content, the ASA found that the video constituted an ad and was therefore within the remit of the UK Code of Non-Broadcast Advertising (“CAP Code”). The ASA determined that because the ad featured a person under the age of 25, the video breached the CAP Code.
The YouTube video showed a prank where Declan Rice, a West Ham footballer aged 20, had his car clamped. The characters in the video wore West Ham football shirts which prominently featured the Betway logo. The penultimate screen of the video featured the tagline ‘heed your hunch’, and the video ended with the word ‘Betway’ on screen which then divided to show the words "bet the responsible way. 18+ begambleaware.org".
The complainant informed the ASA about the video, as it prominently featured Declan Rice, who is under 25 years old.
In response, Betway claimed that the YouTube video was not an advert and did not contain promotional material, meaning it fell outside of the remit of the CAP Code. They further argued that the video did not feature the player in a sporting context, or refer to a specific market, odds or promotion. Betway also pointed out that there was no link to the Betway website on which bets could be placed. Therefore, Betway considered the video as purely editorial content.
The ASA's ruling
The ASA investigated the video under CAP code rule 16.3.14 which states that no one who is, or seems to be, under 25 years old may be featured playing a significant role in marketing communications.
The ASA disagreed with Betway's assessment, and ruled that the video was directly connected with the supply of Betway's services. In particular, the ASA noted that the video appeared on the Betway YouTube channel, featured sportsmen on whom bets could be placed, and Betway branding could be found throughout the video. Further, the Betway tagline ‘feed your hunch’ was deemed to encourage consumers to think about placing a bet.
Finally, the ASA considered that because Declan Rice appeared in the ad for its duration, he played a significant role in the marketing communication, which was contrary to the CAP Code.
As a result, the ASA ruled that the video must not appear again in its current form and Betway was told to remove the ad. In addition, Betway was reminded that individuals under the age of 25 must not play a significant role in marketing communications on social media going forward.
A link to the full decision can be found here.
This decision builds on the ASA's continuing focus on protecting children from gambling, and helps ensure that children and young people do not identify by age with those featured in gambling ads. The ASA has ruled several times on the inclusion of sports people in gambling ads, and has found breaches both where an individual is featured in a profile image or an image of them in action.
The rule also applies to social media, and it is of particular importance to remember that these platforms are frequently used by those younger than 18 and that vigilance is used to ensure that social media use is compliant with the CAP Code where there is potential of content being deemed promotional.
In short, featuring a person in a gambling ad who is or appears to be under 25 is, in almost all circumstances, likely to breach the CAP Code. Operators are reminded to follow the ASA's recent enhanced guidance on protecting children and young people, which came into effect on 1 April 2019.
Co-authored by Eleanor Furlong