This Ruling forms part of a wider piece of work banning gambling ads which, under strengthened rules, are prohibited from being likely to be of strong appeal to under-18s. The ad was identified for investigation following intelligence gathered by our Active Ad Monitoring system, which uses AI to proactively search for online ads that might break the rules.
A tweet published by Sky Sports Premier League’s Twitter account, promoted by bet365, seen in February 2023, featured the text “Granit Xhaka pulled out this stunning finish last season in Arsenal vs Man United”. The tweet contained an embedded video which opened with a footballer kicking a ball from the corner. As he did so, a green digital circle appeared around him. As the ball travelled, a green triangle appeared where the ball had been kicked and then the bet365 logo appeared.
The video then cut to footage from a football match between Arsenal and Manchester United and showed Granit Xhaka scoring a goal as the crowd cheered. The score of the match then appeared overlayed onto the video.
The ASA challenged whether the ad included an individual who was likely to be of strong appeal to under-18s, and therefore breached the Code.
Hillside (UK Sports) ENC t/a bet365 said the tweet was published using the Twitter Amplify feature as part of bet365’s official sponsorship integration with Sky Sports Premier League. They said Amplify was a feature on Twitter that placed advertisers’ adverts before the main video content of the tweet. They said the main video content and the main text of the tweet was produced by the publisher, which in this case was Sky Sports Premier League.
Bet365 said it was designed to replicate the broadcasting of ads ahead of sport content on television and that for this ad, they had acquired the rights for their ads to appear on a pre-roll video ahead of the Sky Sports Premier League content in the tweet. Due to that, the content in the body of the tweet and the main video was produced by Sky Sports and therefore the tweet and video content from Sky Sports was separate to the bet365 part of the tweet.
Bet365 said controls existed to ensure that their Amplify content would only be promoted to users over 25 years of age and above. They also said they ensured that no individuals with strong appeal to young persons were included in the pre-roll advertising that they produced, prior to being shown to the Sky Sports content. Bet365 said 0.2% of Sky Sports Premier League’s Twitter account was registered to those under the age of 18. They further said the bet365 part of the video ran for five seconds, in comparison to the Sky Sports Premier League part of the video which ran for 21 seconds.
Bet365 said the ad was targeted to be delivered to those over 25 years of age, and believed the ad was not served to anyone under 25.
Whilst they did not believe that the Premier League highlight clip was incorporated into their advertising, they provided details of Granit Xhaka’s audience demographics on Instagram and TikTok at the request of the ASA. They said he did not have a public profile on Twitter. On Instagram, 0.4% were registered as under 18. On TikTok, 32.3% were registered as under 18. They said his total audience demographic for both platforms showed that 3.38% were registered as under 18. Bet365 said Granit Xhaka did not have a verified profile on Twitter and that bet365 did not have a TikTok profile or presence and they did not carry out any marketing on that platform.
Sky Sports said they were not aware of having received complaints in relation to the tweet, but that they had no further comments to make.
Twitter said the promoted tweet in question was part of an Amplify Sponsorship campaign using the website card format. They said it was not in breach of Twitter’s Ad Policies and they were not aware of having received complaints about it. They said in the event the complaint was upheld, the ad would be removed.
The ASA noted the tweet had been published by Sky Sports Premier League’s Twitter account using the 'video website card' format of the Amplify feature on Twitter and that this was part of bet365’s official sponsorship deal with Sky Sports Premier League. However, it had subsequently been promoted by bet365 into users’ Twitter feeds. Because bet365 had promoted the tweet, we considered that they had incorporated all of the tweet’s contents into their advertising, and the whole tweet was therefore an ad for bet365.
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.
We noted the CAP Guidance “Gambling and lotteries: Protecting under-18s” stated that football was an activity in which a very significant proportion of under-18s participated directly on a frequent basis and had a general interest in through following professional teams and players across a variety of media. There was also a highly developed infrastructure around organised participation and the sport had an exceptionally high media profile including popular, dedicated media for under-18s. Those who played at an elite level were likely to appeal strongly to children and young persons.
The guidance also stated that UK footballers who played for top clubs were considered high-risk in terms of how likely they were to be of strong appeal to under-18s.
The ad included Granit Xhaka who was a player at Arsenal Football Club at the time the ad was seen and would be well known to the fans of that club, and also to those who followed Premier League football more generally, including children. We also considered that he would be well known for being captain of the Swiss national team. We therefore considered he was 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. Because Twitter was a media environment where users self-identified on customer sign-up, and did not use robust age-verification, we considered that bet365 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 to under-18s.
For those reasons, we concluded that the ad was irresponsible and breached the Code.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 16.1, 16.3 and 16.3.12 (Gambling).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Hillside (UK Sports) ENC t/a bet365 not to include in their ads a person or character who had strong appeal to those under 18 years of age.