The ASA has recently handed down two rulings in relation to the new "Strong Appeal" test which gives some further guidance as to how the test should be applied in practice. From 1 October 2022, the CAP Code has stated that gambling ads must not be likely to be of "strong appeal" to children or young people (those under 18 years old). Both ASA rulings concerned the appearance of football personalities in gambling ads, however neither complaint was upheld by the ASA.
Following the ASA guidance that was published last year and the various talks and training from CAP in the lead up to the introduction to the new rule, the suggestion was that the ASA would take a very strict line to enforcement. However, these rulings indicate a welcome restraint on the part of the ASA and provide some useful insight into how it may approach these cases. In particular, the ASA looked at all the evidence in the round to determine whether a particular individual appeals 'strongly' to children, and even if there is a link to a children's TV show or similar, this will not automatically preclude them appearing in a gambling advertisement, provided the advertiser can demonstrate this has not altered the celebrity's overall appeal to minors as a result.
At the same time, the rulings are quite lengthy by ASA standards. Clearly, a large amount of evidence and data was collated before the ads were published to counter any suggestion that the celebrities might appeal to children. Having such data is going to be vital in cases like this going forward.
A promoted tweet for SkyBet in October 2022 featured text which advertised football betting and an image of Micah Richards, a former professional footballer. He is now a regular and well-known pundit on Match of the Day and other football shows, such as Sky's live coverage of Premier League football games.
Joint CAP and BCAP advertising guidance states that retired footballers who are now pundits are of ‘moderate risk’ of strong appeal to under-18s. The guidance states that their appeal to under-18s should be assessed on the basis of their social and other media profile. Taking this into account, the ASA did not uphold the complaint for the following reasons:
Micah Richard's football career ended in 2019, but he had not played for the Premier League since 2015 nor for England since 2012, so he was now more likely to be known as a pundit.
- BARB data for Match of the Day in September 2022 did not show a significant number of children watched the programme live and many of his appearances were scheduled after 9pm.
- Whilst the ASA acknowledged that Sky's Premier League football games are of strong appeal to under-18s, they did not consider this extended to pundit-based discussion.
- Other shows he appeared on were primarily aimed at an adult audience and scheduled after 9pm, except for an appearance on the CBBC programme "Football Academy". However, this episode had not yet aired when the tweet was published, only a preview. In addition, his appearance was short in duration. In light of these points, the ASA did not consider this made a significant change to his appeal to under-18s.
- He had also been involved in ads for Auto Trader, an autobiography and a column in the Daily Mail, but these were all considered to be adult-focused.
Social Media Profile
In terms of his social media profile, he did not have public accounts on YouTube, TikTok or Twitch and only a small number of under-18 followers on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
There was also nothing in the way he was presented in the ad that was likely to render him of strong appeal to under-18s.
Two TV ads for Paddy Power in November 2022 included Peter Crouch, a former England football player, and advertised bet-builders for the World Cup as part of a Christmas ad campaign. Peter Crouch is a former professional footballer, but has since been appeared in a number of TV shows including Save our Beautiful Game, Peter Crouch: Save Our Summer and Crouchy's Year-Late Euros: Live. He is also a football pundit on BT Sport and was a panellist of season two of ITV's "The Masked Dancer in September and October 2022, and presents a podcast called "That Peter Crouch Podcast".
The joint CAP and BCAP guidance states that gambling advertisers should avoid featuring persons or characters with obvious and direct links to under-18s, including a current or recent children’s TV personality or a retired sportsperson who has moved into presenting/broadcasting relating to that sport, but also into other areas, like youth-oriented reality TV.
The ASA did not uphold this complaint and took into account the following information about Peter Crouch in its decision:
Peter Crouch had only retired as footballer in 2019, he had played for England from 2005 to 2010 and had played for clubs such as Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool and Aston Villa, but had played for less popular clubs since 2011 and in the Iatter years often as a substitute.
- His podcast was aimed at adults with few children in the audience, his commercial partnerships were with adult-focused brands and the TV shows he'd appeared in had primarily been aimed at adult audiences.
- However, in regard to the Masked Dancer, BARB data showed a large child audience and Newsround (a children's TV show) had published articles about the programme, indicating it was of interest to children. His appearance on the show had also taken place recently. However, the ASA considered it was unlikely to make him of strong appeal to under-18s because he was one of four panellists on the show, the programme was of broad demographic appeal and there was no evidence his role in the programme led him to under-18s viewing him in an aspirational way. The ASA believed his social media demographics also supported this conclusion.
Social Media Profile
He did not have a public profile on Facebook, TikTok or Twitch and had not posted on Instagram for a long-time. He only had a small number of child followers on Twitter.
The ASA also held that the Christmas element was not considered a strong appeal as it did not depict Christmas in a way that appealed to children, e.g. there was no Father Christmas.