A promoted tweet for Sky Bet, seen on 2 October 2022, featured an image of Micah Richards. Text above the image stated “[Football emoji] Club football returns following the international break…[money face emoji] Get £20 IN FREE BETS when you place a £5 bet!”.
Two complainants challenged whether the ad included an individual who was likely to be of strong appeal to those under 18 years of age, and therefore breached the Code.
Sky Bet said they strongly believed that Micah Richards did not hold strong appeal to children and they had taken careful note of CAP’s recent revisions to the CAP Code when creating the ad.
They said Micah Richards’ professional footballing career had ended in 2019 and he had not been a Premier League footballer since 2015. At the end of his career he had been playing for Aston Villa, which was a Championship club at the time. Prior to that he had spent time on loan at Serie A club Fiorentina and had therefore been overseas for a prolonged period, which they said would further reduce his appeal to UK children in 2022. They said that, during his football career, he had made 13 appearances for the England national team, the last of which was in 2012. He also made nine appearances for Manchester City in the last three years of his Premier League career from 2012 to 2015, and two appearances for Aston Villa in the Championship in 2016/17, and none in the last two years. Towards the end of his career, he suffered a significant injury and was forced to retire earlier than expected.
They considered that he was more widely recognised as a football pundit than as a former footballer and that it was highly unlikely that his footballing career had generated sufficient residual appeal to reasonably describe him as being of strong appeal to children in 2022.
They said they had assessed his social media and other media profiles prior to publishing the ad, and as part of that they had conducted a series of due diligence tests which included an assessment of his social media profile in detail. They said he did not have active public accounts on YouTube, TikTok or Twitch. They provided details of his audience demographics on Instagram and Twitter which showed that: 0.07% of his Instagram followers were aged 0-16 years and 2.19% were aged 17-19 years; and 0.04% of his Twitter followers were aged 0-16 years and 2.15% were aged 17-19 years. Other data showed that the top topics his followers were interested in were markedly adult themed, and included domestic and US politics as well as political figures, business, finance and news. They said Facebook did not provide the same level of detail and their audience demographic did not permit the inclusion of under-18 data. However, the data they had demonstrated that the percentage age of his follower’s under-18 was very low, and was likely to be under 1%. They also considered the audience demographic of the TV programmes which they said he was predominantly known for. Also, in his capacity as a pundit for BBC and Sky, Mr Richards was featured in a range of football-themed TV shows and that many were scheduled later in the evening, reducing the likelihood that they were regularly watched by children. They provided Broadcaster’s Audience Research Board (BARB) data that they said showed the adult appeal of those programmes.
They said he had made a short three-minute cameo appearance in the second episode of a CBBC series Football Academy, which comprised 15 episodes. They said his appearance was not recurring and that he was neither the host nor the predominant feature of the episode. They referenced that he appeared along with Alan Shearer and discussed topics such as their favourite opponents, one of whom had not been a Premier League footballer since 2014. They provided evidence that there had not been a marked increase in under-18 followers on Mr Richard’s Twitter account during October, November or December following his appearance on the programme. Therefore they did not consider that his short appearance had increased his appeal to children.
They said that whilst they acknowledged CAP’s view that football was by its nature of strong appeal to children, they considered that any appeal would be unlikely to extend to the same degree to detailed pundit-based discussions around tactics and team performance. Again, they said that the BARB data corroborated that. They said he also featured on US programmes for CBS which was unlikely to have any relevance to children in the UK. In addition, he was also a panel member for the sport-themed entertainment show A League of Their Own, and had appeared on Channel 4’s Celebrity Gogglebox, both of which were usually broadcast after 9 pm. They provided BARB data which showed a predominantly adult audience at the time the programmes were broadcast live.
They said they had assessed his current and previous endorsements which were clearly targeted at an adult audience and included, AutoTrader, a column in the Daily Mail and his autobiography. They also said he used his profile to highlight issues that were clearly adult in nature, including racism and mental health.
They said they considered for those reasons, he would be perceived as low risk with regard to CAP’s guidance.
They said they had appropriately targeted the ad towards an adult audience through the use of tools available on Twitter. The targeting included ensuring the ad was not served to any Twitter user they identified as self-excluded, at higher risk of gambling related harm or who had opted to apply a ‘cool-off’ from their product. The campaign was targeted at over-25s who followed betting brands, and who had a known interest in sports and sports betting.
From 1 October 2022, the CAP Code stated that marketing communications for gambling products must not be likely to be of strong appeal to children or young persons, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture. They must not include a person or character whose example was likely to be followed by those aged under 18 years or who had strong appeal to those aged under 18. The ASA expected advertisers to provide evidence that they had identified what persons or characters were generally known for outside the context of an ad, and had used appropriate sources of data and information to assess their likely level of appeal to under-18s. Because the ad had appeared in a medium where under-18s could not be entirely excluded from the audience it needed to comply with that rule.
We acknowledged that Micah Richards had been a well-known professional footballer until 2019. We noted that during his career he had been the youngest defender to play for England, which was a notable football achievement. However, we considered that, because he had not been a Premier League player since 2015, and his England career had ended in 2012, he was now more likely to be widely recognised as both a sports pundit and Brand Ambassador for Sky Bet. Joint CAP and BCAP advertising guidance Gambling and lotteries advertising: protecting under-18s, classed retired footballers who had moved into punditry as ‘moderate risk’ of strong appeal to under-18s and stated that they would be assessed on the basis of their social and other media profile. We therefore assessed the appeal that Mr Richards was likely to have on that basis.
We noted he was a regular and well-known pundit on Match of the Day and he also made regular appearances on other football related TV shows. We noted BARB data for Match of the Day for September 2022, in the lead up to the ad, did not show that a significant number of children watched the programme live, and did not show particular appeal to under-18s. We also noted many of those appearances were scheduled later in the evening, post 9 pm, which we considered reduced the likelihood that those programmes would be regularly watched by young children.
We noted he also appeared as a pundit on Sky’s live coverage of Premier League football games, and we acknowledged that live Premier League games would be of strong appeal to under-18s. However, we considered that same strong appeal was unlikely to extend to the pundit-based discussion that took place around the game, and therefore his appearance in that context would be unlikely to hold strong appeal to under-18s.
Outside of his role as a football pundit, we noted he had appeared as a panel member on Sky Max’s A League of their Own and had also made appearances on Gogglebox. We considered those programmes were again scheduled post 9 pm and were primarily aimed at an adult audience. We noted he appeared on a CBBC programme Football Academy, which we considered was likely to be of strong appeal to under-18s. We noted that although the preview for the programme had been running at the time the ad was seen, the episode itself had not yet been aired. Had he appeared regularly and prominently on such a programme, it was likely that he would have been considered to have strong appeal. However, because his appearance was limited to a preview of the programme and one unaired episode, and that appearance was of only a short duration, we considered that it was unlikely to have resulted in a significant change in his level of appeal to under-18s.
In the context of his overall TV profile, we did not consider he was likely to be of strong appeal to under-18s.
We also considered his appeal in terms of his other endorsements and roles outside of football punditry. We noted he had been involved in a column in the Daily Mail, ads for Auto Trader, and an autobiography, all of which were adult focused.
He did not have public accounts on YouTube, TikTok or Twitch, and had a small following of under-18s on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. We therefore considered his social media profile was unlikely to make him of strong appeal to under-18s.
Whilst we acknowledged he did have direct links to Premier League football and that was of inherent strong appeal to children, we considered that his social and other media profile was predominantly adult-orientated. We also considered there was nothing in the way he was presented in the ad that would have strongly attracted the attention of under-18s or was likely to render him of strong appeal.
For those reasons, we concluded that the ad was not of strong appeal to children or young persons.
We investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications for gambling must be socially responsible, with particular regard to the need to protect children, young persons and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited.
Marketing communications must not:
be likely to be of strong appeal to children or
young persons, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth
They must not include a person or character whose example is likely to
be followed by those aged under 18 years or who has a strong appeal to those
aged under 18.
Where appropriate steps have been taken to limit the potential for an
advertisement to appeal strongly to under-18s, this rule does not prevent the
advertising of gambling products associated with activities that are themselves
of strong appeal to under-18s (for instance, certain sports or playing video
CAP has published guidance? on
the application of the rule, including for advertising of gambling products
associated with activities that are themselves of strong appeal to under-18s.
(Gambling), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.