A website for a betting service, www.betdaq.com, featured an image of the statue of Christ the Redeemer with the surrounding city of Rio de Janeiro visible behind. The statue had been digitally altered so that the figure's robe was purple, and the word "BETDAQ" had been superimposed onto it. The image was headed "WORLD CUP 2014 - BET WITH BETDAQ"
The complainant objected that the use of an image of Jesus Christ to promote gambling would be offensive to Christians.
Ladbrokes International Ltd t/a Betdaq stated that they did not intend for the ad, and the use of the image, to cause offence. They said that as a result of the complaint they had removed the image from the website, and stated that they would not use the ad or image again.
The ASA acknowledged that the statute of Christ the Redeemer was a well-known landmark for the city of Rio de Janeiro and was therefore likely to be understood as a reference to the city and the location of the 2014 World Cup, particularly as the city was visible in the background of the image and the tournament was clearly referenced in the ad. However, we also understood that any image of Jesus was likely to hold religious connotations for believers, and that despite its secular use as a landmark this was still the case for the statue in question. We noted that, although the figure was not seen taking an active part in gambling, it was emblazoned with the logo and colour scheme of a betting company and was featured in a prominent role in an ad for a gambling service. We considered that this created an association between the figure of Christ and gambling and commercial activities. We therefore concluded that the ad was likely to cause serious offence to some visitors to the website.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rule
Marketing communications must not contain anything that is likely to cause serious or widespread offence. Particular care must be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability or age. Compliance will be judged on the context, medium, audience, product and prevailing standards.
Marketing communications may be distasteful without necessarily breaching this rule. Marketers are urged to consider public sensitivities before using potentially offensive material.
The fact that a product is offensive to some people is not grounds for finding a marketing communication in breach of the Code. (Harm and Offence).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Ladbrokes to take care in future when using religious imagery.