A poster for Paddy Power, seen on 8 January 2016 in Liverpool, stated in large text “YOU’LL NEVER WALK ALONE”. Underneath smaller text stated “(OR EVER AGAIN IF YOU PLAY FOR KLOPP)”. The ad contained an image of a wheelchair which stated on its back “PROPERTY OF L.F.C”.
Two complainants challenged whether the ad was likely to cause serious or widespread offence.
Paddy Power plc said that that in early 2016 Liverpool Football Club (LFC) was at the centre of public commentary because 13 LFC players were deemed unfit to play as a result of hamstring or leg injuries. It was widely accepted amongst professionals within the game that the injuries had resulted from high-intensity training techniques used by the club’s new manager, Jurgen Klopp. Although they said they could see that the ad may be distasteful, they believed it was not offensive as it did not make fun of a disability.
Ocean Outdoor agreed with Paddy Power.
The ASA understood that the ad was shown in Liverpool and considered that many of the consumers who saw the ad were therefore likely to have some understanding of the context. In any case, while we acknowledged that particular care must be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of disability, we considered the reference to not being able to walk was clearly and immediately connected to ‘playing for Klopp’. We also considered the text on the wheelchair, which stated “property of L.F.C”, further emphasised that the wheelchair was specifically for those at the football club. In that context, we considered it was clear that the LFC players and their current injuries, rather than those with a disability, were the target of the humour.
We considered that although the ad may be seen as distasteful by some, it was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.
We investigated under 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), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.