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ASA rules against BetVictor Facebook ad

19th April 2023 7:53 am GMT
Advertising Standards Authority
Pragmatic Solutions

BetVictor has been found to have breached UK gambling advertising regulations by featuring sportspeople that appeal to children.

The ruling by the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) relates to a paid Facebook ad that was published in January and featured an image of FC Barcelona players Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets. 

The ASA challenged whether the ad included individuals who were likely to have strong appeal to under-18-year olds, and therefore breached the Code.

In its response, the company said that it has procedures in place to ensure that advertising does not breach the codes and noted that CAP guidance states that when a person or character is used to illustrate a subject of strong appeal to under-18s, their association with the subject is not a basis alone for the ASA to find an ad in breach of the code.

BetVictor added that whilst FC Barcelona is a top-flight team, this would not mean that their players are well-known in the UK. To support this, evidence was presented to show that neither footballer had a volume of Google searches in the UK as true ‘top-flight’ footballers and also had less than retired UK footballers. 

Sergio Busquets’ total UK searches were only 1.9 per cent of Messi’s, 1.33 per cent of Ronaldo’s and 4.46 per cent of Mbappe’s in the week from 16 to 22 January 2023. The company said this was similar for Jordi Alba, whose was 1.67 per cent of Messi’s, 1.14 per cent of Ronaldo’s and 3.8 per cent of Mbappe’s.

This argument was rejected by the ASA, which said that FC Barcelona was a professional, top-flight football club that competed in Spain’s top league, and were known to be one of the most widely supported and successful clubs in the world. “We considered that they would be classed as a ‘top’ European club under CAP guidance,” said the ASA.

“The two players were also well-known members of the Spanish National team, with Sergio Busquets being the team’s captain at the time the ad appeared. They had both played for Spain during the most recent 2022 FIFA World Cup which had taken place shortly before the ad had been promoted.”

As a result, both players were considered to be “stars” by the ASA, and therefore were likely to be of strong appeal to under-18s.

“We considered that it would have been acceptable for the ad to appear in a medium where under-18s, for all intents and purposes, could be entirely excluded from the audience. That would apply in circumstances where those who saw the ad had been robustly age-verified as being 18 or older, such as through marketing lists that had been validated by payment data or credit checking,” explained the ASA. 

“Because Facebook was a media environment where users self-verified on customer sign-up, and did not use robust age-verification, we considered that Bet Victor had not excluded under-18s from the audience with the highest level of accuracy required for ads the content of which was likely to appeal strongly to under-18s. For those reasons, we concluded the ad was irresponsible and breached the Code.”

The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) 16.1, 16.3 and 16.3.12 (Gambling) and must not appear again in its current form.

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