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 ads were 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.
Three tweets for Betfred, which promoted an upcoming Anthony Joshua fight, seen in March and April 2023:
a. The first tweet featured a video of boxer Anthony Joshua being interviewed by commentator Dom McGuinness about his diet ahead of his fight against Jermaine Franklin. Text on the post stated, “How does @anthonyjoshua stay in shape? A diet consisting of bananas with rice & ketchup with sweetcorn. How does @ant_crolla stay in shape? Guinness. Hear from @EddieHearn and @JermaineFrankl6 too on the Lightweight Boxing Show. #JoshuaFranklin @MatchroomBoxing”.
b. The second tweet featured a video of Anthony Joshua being interviewed by Dom McGuinness about how he prepared for fights. Text on the post stated, “I think it's a good fight for me to test myself". @anthonyjoshua spoke to @DomMcGuinness1 and @ant_crolla ahead of his fight with Jermaine Franklin on Saturday. Watch the Lightweight Boxing Show on YouTube NOW! #JoshuaFranklin @MatchroomBoxing”.
c. The third tweet featured a video of Anthony Joshua being interviewed about his mentality when fighting. Text on the post stated, “‘I'm going in there with pure confidence because I know the work I've done’ There are NO doubts in @AnthonyJoshua's mind ahead of his fight with Jermaine Franklin! Full interview #JoshuaFranklin”.
The ASA challenged whether the ads included an individual who was likely to be of strong appeal to those under 18 years of age, and therefore breached the Code.
Petfre (Gibraltar) Ltd t/a Betfred said they had carried out a thorough risk assessment of Anthony Joshua against the CAP guidance on gambling and lotteries advertising and were satisfied that he was not of strong appeal to under-18s.
They said their social media channels were age-gated to users who were aged 18 years and over. They explained that where a platform did not have robust age verification methods in place, Betfred’s targeted campaigns were only served to users identified as 25 years and over and who had relative interests. They also said the posts were not advertising a gambling product or offer and that they were editorial in nature.
Betfred said Mr Joshua was a 33-year-old former world champion boxer known almost exclusively for his sporting achievements. They explained that he had not held a championship title of any type since 2021 and his activities were almost exclusively limited to boxing and activities focused on his boxing career. Although they acknowledged that he was undoubtedly a “star” in the sport of boxing, they said he was reaching the end of his career and there was no evidence that he was a “notable star” and that, as per CAP guidance, he therefore posed a ‘low risk’ of appealing to children. They said that this inevitably had a bearing on not only his popularity but also his awareness and recognition amongst under-18s. In terms of his general profile, they said he had not appeared on any form of reality TV, further reducing the potential for him to strongly appeal to children. They said his brand deals, which included Under Armour, Beats By Dre and JD Sports, had universal appeal and were all well-known ‘household’ brands which were universally popular, irrespective of Mr Joshua’s endorsement. They provided data which showed less than 1% of each of these brands were followed by under-18s on social media.
Whilst they acknowledged that Mr Joshua did have an extensive social media presence and media profile, Betfred said that stemmed almost exclusively from his sporting career and not from any other activity which could be deemed to have strong appeal to under-18s. They said social media data showed that 0% of his followers on Twitter/X, Facebook and TikTok were registered as being between 13 and 17 years old; 5% of his Snapchat followers and 6.6% of his Instagram followers were registered as being between 13 and 17 years old. Overall, they said he had 29.3 million followers worldwide, which they acknowledged meant he had a substantial social media presence. They said 1.1 million users were registered as being under 18. As this was 3.85% of his total followers, they considered Mr Joshua had an overwhelming adult following on social media. Further to this, they said only UK specific data should be assessed. They stated he had 7.2m followers in total in the UK and, assuming age breakdowns in the UK mirrored worldwide figures (3.85%), Betfred believed approximately 280,000 of Mr Joshua’s UK followers were under 18. They acknowledged that the total number excluded Snapchat, for which they did not have UK specific data. They argued 280,000 (specifically 279,936) was not a significant number of followers in absolute terms.
Betfred stated that, as per CAP guidance, boxing was an adult-orientated sport which was unlikely to be of strong appeal to under-18s. They said Mr Joshua’s fights were usually shown late at night and that they were mostly shown on a pay-per-view or subscription basis, which required payment from someone over the age of 18. For example, they said that his most recent fight was shown on DAZN, a paid-for subscription service which was not directly available to under-18s. They acknowledged that the fight was later uploaded to YouTube, but said that viewing figures did not indicate that people below the age of 18 had watched it.
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 ads appeared in a medium where under-18s could not be entirely excluded from the audience, they needed to comply with that rule.
CAP guidance stated that sportspeople involved in clearly adult-oriented sports who were ‘notable’ stars with significant social media and general profiles which made them well-known to under-18s were likely to be of ‘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.
CAP guidance also stated that sports like boxing were more adult-oriented and unlikely to be of inherent ‘strong’ appeal to children. That was due to a number of factors, including because UK government statistics outlined that the proportion of children participating in boxing was low. We also noted that live boxing was often broadcast later at night and often only accessible on pay-per-view channels. Although we acknowledged that some children would still have an interest in boxing, we considered that it was an adult-oriented sport and one that generally had low appeal to under-18s. We therefore assessed the appeal that Mr Joshua was likely to have to under-18s based on his social and other media profile.
Mr Joshua was a 33-year-old former world champion boxer who was considered a high profile ‘star’ in the sport. He had not held a championship title of any type since 2021, but he was still considered one of the most well-known British boxers. He was a two-time former unified heavyweight champion of the world, having held most of the boxing titles between 2016 and 2021. He had been ranked among the world’s top 10 boxers since 2014. He also won a gold medal at the Olympics in 2012. We considered that, although he would still be considered widely recognisable and a notable ‘star’ of boxing, he was nearing the end of his career. However, due to his success and celebrity status, he would likely still have been considered as an influential figure and a notable star within the sport.
We then assessed Mr Joshua’s social and other media profiles. We understood that he had appeared on a number of talk shows. For example, he appeared on the Graham Norton show in 2017, A League of Their Own in 2019, Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway in 2020 and The Jonathan Ross Show in 2021. He had appeared on many sports related shows, including Gary Neville’s The Overlap in 2021 as well as various Sky Sports shows. His career had been a point of discussion on national news and sports channels and in newspapers for over a decade. Although he had been a storyteller in a CBeebies Bedtime Story in 2022, we considered most of the programmes he appeared in were primarily aimed at adult audiences and that the majority of his other media appearances were focused around boxing, a sport which, as previously stated, was not likely to be of strong appeal to children. We considered that some of his commercial relationships were with adult-focused brands, such as Jaguar Land Rover, William Hill and Hugo Boss. However, he also had endorsement deals with brands including Under Armour, Beats By Dre and JD Sports, which we considered would have also been popular with under-18s. Based on his extensive media appearances and marketability, we considered Mr Joshua had a significant media profile in general. As per the CAP Guidance, we therefore considered Mr Joshua to be in the ‘moderate risk’ of strong appeal to under-18s category and went on to assess his social media profiles.In terms of his social media presence, we understood that Mr Joshua had accounts on Twitter/X, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok and YouTube. He had a total of 29.3 million followers across all platforms. Given that Mr Joshua was a prominent celebrity within the UK, we considered it was appropriate to assess the total number of under-18 followers on each of his social media platforms. Of Mr Joshua’s 15.7 million Instagram followers, approximately 6.6% were registered as under 18, which amounted to approximately 1 million users. Of his 1.6 million Snapchat followers, approximately 5% were registered as under 18, which amounted to approximately 82,000 users. Of his 764,000 YouTube followers, approximately 0.9% were registered as under 18, which amounted to approximately 6,900 users. Betfred said none of his followers on TikTok, Twitter/X or Facebook were registered as being under 18. Therefore across his active social media accounts he had at least 1.1 million followers worldwide who were aged under 18, which we considered to be a substantially high number. We acknowledged Betfred’s view that only UK specific data should be considered. They were unable to provide UK data on each social media platform specifically and we had not seen evidence that age breakdowns in the UK would mirror worldwide figures (3.85%). In any case, if Betfred’s estimation was accurate, we considered at least 280,000 followers (likely to be higher due to the absence of UK Snapchat data) aged under 18 was still a significant number in absolute terms.
The CAP Guidance stated, “a generally high social media following that attracts a significant absolute number of under 18 followers, as determined through quantitative or qualitative analysis, is likely to be considered an indicator of 'strong' appeal”. Although they made up a small proportion of his total followers, we considered that over 1.1 million followers aged under 18 was a significant number in absolute terms. We therefore considered that because he had such large numbers of social media followers who were under 18, Mr Joshua was of inherent strong appeal to under-18s.
The ads breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 16.1, 16.3 and 16.3.12 (Gambling).
The ads must not appear again in their current form. We told Petfre (Gibraltar) Ltd t/a Betfred not to include a person or character who had strong appeal to those under 18 years of age in their advertising in future.