A sponsored video entitled “How to make money from football index”, seen on football magazine FourFourTwo’s YouTube channel on 12 June 2019.
The video featured two representatives of The Football Index being interviewed about what the product was and how it worked. One representative said “It’s basically the football stock market, where you buy and sell shares in footballers with real money and you can win daily pay-outs which we call dividends.” The other representative said “There’s fantasy football on the one hand, you’ve got traditional football betting on the other hand, people who enjoy that are perhaps a little bit disheartened with how traditional bookies work, i.e. you’re having your stake swept off of the table after 90 minutes. With Football Index, it’s a long, ongoing bet, so you’ve got multiple opportunities to win, but also the ability to cash out at any time.”
The complainant, who believed the ad implied the product was a reliable source of income and did not make the financial risks clear, challenged whether it was irresponsible because it was presented as an investment opportunity.
BetIndex Ltd said the risks associated with the product were made clear throughout the ad. They said the product was described as the “football stock market”, which they believed consumers would recognise as analogous to a stock market which carried a risk of the value of shares going up and down. They said the product was also described as a “long ongoing bet”, which they believed consumers would understand as a bet that gave rise to risk of losses being incurred. They said that while the graphics in the ad showed an overall upward trajectory for player value, they also showed that the price was subject to market fluctuations both up and down. BetIndex said that it was highlighted in the ad that their number one tip was to learn the game rules and that those rules made clear the potential to incur losses. They said the ad also displayed the logos of the Gambling Commission and begambleaware.com. BetIndex said they had changed the title of the video to “Football Index: How to make money trading & betting on the football stock market” to leave potential users in no doubt that what was being described was a gambling product.
Future Publishing Ltd said they were reliant on BetIndex for the accuracy of the content but did not feel that the ad suggested the Football Index was a long-term financial solution or that it was irresponsible. They said that steps were taken to ensure the advert was targeted at those aged 18 years and over.
The ASA noted the descriptor “the football stock market” given to the product within the first three seconds of the video. One of the Football Index representatives then went on to explain that the product was a platform to “buy and sell shares in footballers with real money” and that “you can win daily pay-outs, which we call dividends”. The video cut to various graphics throughout, showing the user interface of the app on a smartphone and graphs demonstrating how player value affected a user’s “portfolio”. One such graph detailed three types of “dividends” that could be received – “Media dividends”, “Match-play dividends” and “In-play dividends” and another showed a player’s “yield”, while the representative referred to the player’s “capital appreciation”. We understood that the product functioned in a similar way to a conventional stock market in that shares were bought and sold in players, and the language used was synonymous with the language used to describe conventional stock markets and investment products. The ad focused on the ability to generate profit from the platform, and that impression was furthered by the video’s title, “How to make money from the football index”.
When the host introduced the two representatives from the Football Index, he stated that they were “going to explain why thousands of football fans have turned to trading footballers and more importantly, how you can make some money out of it”. We also noted comments such as “365 days a year, every day, we’re paying out on these portfolios” and the question “how do you make cold, hard cash from it?” posed to the representatives by the host. A range of examples were given of those footballers who had generated significant profit on the platform in numerous ways, such as through their performances in matches and whether they had been in the media spotlight. Though the graphics in the ad showed a fluctuation in value of players, their purpose was to draw attention to the steady increase in player value over a sustained period of time and how this could generate money for users.
While we acknowledged BetIndex’s comments that the product was described as a “long ongoing bet”, we noted that the representative stated immediately after that users had “multiple opportunities to win”. We also acknowledged BetIndex’s comments that consumers would recognise that the value of stock market investments went up and down and that it was expressly stated in the ad that “any market prices naturally go up and down”. However, we considered that the substantial discussion around how money could be generated from the platform created the impression that the product was a lucrative investment opportunity. Also, we did not consider the minor references to the fluctuation of value, the instruction to learn the game rules or the inclusion of the Gambling Commission and begambleaware.com logos sufficient to override that impression.
We considered, therefore, the impression created by the ad was for a product that was an investment opportunity when, in fact, it was a betting product and did not make the associated financial risks clear, and concluded that it was irresponsible and breached the Code.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 16.1, 16.3.1 and 16.3.2 (Gambling).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained of. We told BetIndex Ltd and Future Publishing Ltd to ensure that their future marketing communications did not encourage gambling behaviour that was socially irresponsible. We also told them to ensure the associated financial risks were made clear and that they did not create the impression their product was an investment opportunity when that was not the case.