The rules surrounding gambling and lottery adverts changed in October last year. Four months on, the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) have provided useful guidance on the interpretation of the rules.
WHAT ARE THE NEW RULES?
The rules make it clear that “marketing communications/advertisements for gambling must not […] be likely to be of strong appeal to children or young persons”.
The CAP has provided guidance in relation to content which may be of ‘strong appeal’ which includes:
- Content linked to activities that are very popular or common among younger people
- Popular personalities who are likely to influence under-18s; and/or
- Creative techniques like music, graphics and animation styles closely connected to youth culture.
The rules have a major impact on the gambling industry as celebrity/influencer endorsement deals are be limited to those who do not have a ‘strong appeal’ to under-18s. The guidance by way of example suggests that using the following people in gambling advert presents a high risk:
- Anyone with a significant under-18 following on social media;
- Footballers who play for top clubs…this would also apply to managers;
- Prominent sportspeople involved in sports like cricket, tennis and rugby; and/or
- Leading eSports players.
Sanctions differ depending on whether adverts are broadcast or non-broadcast (e.g. TV would be broadcast and Instagram would be non-broadcast). Potential sanctions include:
- withdrawal of trading privileges; and/or
- being required to have marketing material pre-vetted.
Now that the rules have been in force for some time, the ASA has made rulings on various gambling adverts. The rulings are helpful in providing examples where ‘strong appeal’ may be found.Paddy Power – Peter Crouch
Two Paddy Power Christmas adverts featuring retired footballer Peter Crouch were reviewed by the ASA. In the ruling the ASA held that Peter Crouch would not be of ‘strong appeal’ to under-18s given the fact that Mr Crouch is a retired footballer with a limited social media presence and despite being on television/podcasts, the audience demographic of the content was found to be an adult audience.
Sky Bet – Micah Richards
A Sky Bet tweet featuring an image of footballer Micah Richards and text which offered £20 in free bets when customers placed a £5 bet. The ASA ruled that Micah Richards was not of ‘strong appeal’ for a number of reasons including that his last Premier League match was in 2015, his last England match in 2012 and similar to the Peter Crouch ruling the TV programs that he featured on were primarily aimed at adult audiences.
Ladbrokes – Philippe Coutinho, Jesse Lingard and Kalidou Koulibaly.
A Ladbrokes tweet featuring a video of the players listed above and the text, “Can these big summer signings make the question marks over their performances go away?”. In this matter, the ASA held that the players featured in the tweet were of strong appeal to under-18s. One of the main reasons for this being the fact that the players were all current Premier League players. Interestingly, Ladbrokes submitted that the Ladbrokes Twitter feed could only be accessed by users over the age of 18 and the tweet was sent out as a promoted tweet targeted to users over 25 years old. This was deemed insufficient due to Twitter users self-verifying their age, which means that people could easily insert a fake age.CHALLENGES FACED BY GAMBLING COMPANIES AND POINTS TO NOTE
The Ladbrokes advert is a cautionary tale to gambling businesses as it demonstrates the strict approach taken by the ASA. In the tweet, there was no call to action and there was no evidence that the tweet was viewed by any under-18s.
The rules clearly present significant challenges for the gambling companies which often use sports personalities in their marketing material to attract customers. Given the fact that sport is so wide-reaching, it would be difficult to argue that most high-profile sports personalities do not have a ‘strong appeal’ to young people. However, the cases featuring Peter Crouch and Micah Richards are useful in showing the process that the ASA goes through to determine ‘strong appeal’.
Marketing departments will have their work cut out when seeking to create engaging content whilst ensuring that the adverts are not of ‘strong appeal’ to under-18s.