A promoted tweet for Ladbrokes, seen in October 2022, featured the text “Can these big summer signings make the question marks over their performances go away?”. The tweet contained an embedded video showing an image reel of Premier League footballers Philippe Coutinho, Jesse Lingard and Kalidou Koulibaly, set against a background of question marks, with the text “Ladbrokes” within the image box itself.
IssueThe ASA challenged whether the ad included individuals who were likely to have strong appeal to those under-18 years of age, and therefore breached the Code.
LC International Ltd t/a Ladbrokes said the ad was designed in-house and had been published as a brand engagement piece with the brand’s following. They said there were no calls to action, promotional offers or links back to the Ladbroke’s site.
They said their marketing team had carefully incorporated CAP’s guidance on gambling ads having strong appeal to under-18s in their practices. They acknowledged that football and top-flight footballers were considered to carry a high risk of having strong appeal to children, and they had therefore made use of all available targeting and age-gating tools to remove under-18s from the ad’s audience. They said the Ladbroke’s Twitter feed and respective tweets could not be accessed by users unless Twitter had accepted their age as being over-18. They said they understood that Twitter users self-verified their age, and because that was not always accurate, they had added an additional level of assurance by targeting the ad on social media to reach only over-25s. They provided data from Twitter that showed the ad had been boosted to only reach users who were aged 25 years and over. The data showed a total of 50,666 impressions, and that 0% of their targeted audience was under 20 years old.
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 noted that Premier League footballers were considered high risk within the CAP guidance “Gambling and lotteries: Protecting under-18s” in terms of how likely they were to be of strong appeal to under-18s. 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.
We noted the ad included Philippe Coutinho, Jesse Lingard and Kalidou Koulibaly, who were all current Premier League footballers and would be well known to those who followed Premier League football, and in particular fans of the clubs they played for, including children. In addition, they had all played international football, and we considered based on those factors that all three footballers 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. We did not consider that marketing data inferred from user behaviour met that threshold. Because Twitter was a media environment where users self-verified on customer sign-up, and did not use robust age-verification, we considered that Ladbrokes 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 considered that the ad was irresponsible and breached the Code.
The ad breached 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.
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told LC International Ltd t/a Ladbrokes not to include a person or character who had strong appeal to those under 18 years of age.