A radio ad for Paddy Power heard on 16 March 2022. A voice-over in the ad said, “Cheltenham 2022 is underway, and we've already seen some cracking contests in the Cotswolds. Not to mention the biggest influx of Irish since London in the 1980s. They're here and they're making a big deal about the greatest rivalry Britain's never heard of. So as the British trainers aim to put the Irish trainers back in their little green horse boxes, here at Paddy Power we're turning up the generosity every day at Cheltenham.”
The complainants challenged whether the statement “biggest influx of Irish since London in the 1980s” was likely to cause serious or widespread offence.
One complainant believed this to be a reference to IRA attacks, while another believed this, alongside the statement, “put the Irish trainers back in their little green horse boxes” were derogatory references to Irish emigration.
PPB Counterparty Services Ltd t/a Paddy Power pointed out they were an Irish brand. They said it was widely known and understood by the public that the Cheltenham Festival represented an annual challenge between Great Britain and Ireland for the largest number of winners. They said the ad made light-hearted and humorous references to this well-known rivalry.
They said the statement the “biggest influx of Irish since London in the 1980s” was a reference to the commonly known increase in Irish migration to England during that period. They said the statement was a playful metaphor for the large number of Irish fans returning to Cheltenham following the event’s closure to the public due to the Covid-19 pandemic. They said the Cheltenham festival was usually timed to coincide with St Patrick’s Day and was known for its strong attendance of Irish racegoers. They said the ad made no reference at all to the IRA, either overt or implied. They believed that any reasonably well-informed listener would understand the reference in the context in which it was intended, and it could not reasonably be considered derogatory.
They said the reference to “little green horse boxes” in the ad was a direct reference to the actual horseboxes commonly used by Irish race trainers. They stated that Willie Mullins, Cheltenham’s most successful trainer, was well known for his use of a fleet of green horse boxes. They said the colour green was synonymous with Ireland and was used to represent Ireland globally. They rejected any suggestion that the use of the word green in the context of Irish horse boxes was derogatory. Therefore, they did not believe the ad could cause serious or widespread offence to the reasonably well-informed customer.
Radiocentre said they understood the statement in the ad to be a reference to Irish emigration in the 1980s because of the recession, rather than an IRA reference. They stated the advertiser was an Irish company and the ad was alluding to the fact that Irish horses, trainers and riders won most of the races at Cheltenham.
The ASA understood the theme of the ad centred around the rivalry between British and Irish trainers and their supporters at the Cheltenham festival, a celebrated horse racing based event. We considered the statement “biggest influx of Irish since London in the 1980s” would be understood by most listeners as a reference to the increased emigration of people from Ireland to London during the 1980s, a well-documented socio-economic event in recent history, driven in part by the economic climate in Ireland at that time. We considered that listeners would also understand that this statement was also intended to be a comedic reference to the rivalry between British and Irish trainers and their supporters, their attendance at Cheltenham and the popularity of the event in the UK and Ireland.
We acknowledged that immigration could be a sensitive and controversial topic and that some listeners might find that basing humour on the issue of immigration or making light of Irish emigration in the 1980s to be distasteful. However, we considered that the ad was not making negative or disparaging comments about immigration, emigration or the Irish, and concluded that, in the context of the ad, the statement “biggest influx of Irish since London in the 1980s” was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.
We considered that the statement “So as the British trainers aim to put the Irish trainers back in their little green horse boxes” was also likely to be interpreted as a light-hearted reference to the sporting rivalry between the respective trainers. We therefore concluded it was unlikely to be seen as derogatory towards the Irish population in general.
We noted there were no direct references to the IRA in the ad, and in light of the general understanding that the ad was making reference to emigration and sporting rivalries, did not consider that listeners would interpret the ad to be making reference to IRA activities in the UK during that period.
We therefore concluded the ad was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.
We investigated the ad under BCAP Code rules
Advertisements must not cause serious or widespread offence against generally accepted moral, social or cultural standards.
Particular care must be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of: age; disability; gender; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; and sexual orientation. and 4.8 4.8 Advertisements must not condone or encourage harmful discriminatory behaviour or treatment. Advertisements must not prejudice respect for human dignity. (Harm and offence), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.