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-18-year-olds. The ad was 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.
A promoted tweet for William Hill, seen on 10 February 2023 stated, “[speaking head emoji] No matter who the manager is Leeds are going down." “@RobbieSavage thinks it'll be too little, too late at Elland Road ...”. The tweet contained an embedded video clip that featured Robbie Savage discussing Leeds United’s relegation prospects. The video featured William Hill’s logo intermittently and the BeGambleAware logo. Text at the end stated, “It’s who you play with. William Hill”.
The ASA challenged whether the ad included an individual who was likely to be of strong appeal to those aged under 18 years, and therefore breached the Code.
WHG (International) Ltd t/a William Hill said prior to the introduction of the revised CAP Code rules they had carried out a thorough analysis of personalities who featured in their advertising. That review was repeated periodically and for new personalities in light of the new CAP guidance. They confirmed that the tweet had been targeted at 25- to 49-year-olds who followed the Leeds United and Sky Sports accounts.
William Hill cited previous ASA rulings where the ASA had accepted that a former professional footballer whose career had ended many years previously did not have strong appeal to children. They said Robbie Savage, a brand ambassador for William Hill since 2010, was a 48-year-old man who had last played for a top-flight club 15 years previously, in 2008, and finished his career at Derby County, a third-tier club, in 2011. His last appearance for his national team was in 2004. As a long-retired footballer now known for punditry, they believed he fell within the “low risk” category of strong appeal to children according to the Joint CAP and BCAP Advertising Guidance - Gambling and lotteries advertising: protecting under-18s (the B/CAP Guidance).
Since 2010, Robbie Savage had had a career in broadcasting, most notably in football punditry as a presenter on BT Sports Score and BBC Five Live Radio. Sports Score had an under-18 viewing demographic of under 9%, and Mr Savage formed part of a panel of six presenters. For BBC Five Live, 10- to 17-year-olds comprised 4.5% of listeners overall and 15- to 24-year-olds made up 5% of the studio audience of the 606 show which Mr Savage co-presented, although they did not provide data showing the percentage of listeners of the 606 show who were under 18.
William Hill believed Mr Savage’s participation in the TV show, Strictly Come Dancing, in 2011 and his one-off appearance in the show’s 2017 Christmas special were not recent enough to be relevant in assessing his present-day appeal to under-18s.
They provided details of Robbie Savage’s audience demographics for his social media accounts which showed that 2% of his Instagram followers, 5% of his Facebook followers and 0.1% of his Twitter followers were aged under 18.
Twitter believed the ad did not breach any of their current policies and said they had not received any complaints in relation to it.
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 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. We acknowledged that the ad was targeted at over-25s, however, because it had appeared in a medium where under-18s could not be entirely excluded from the audience due to users self-verifying their age on sign-up, and therefore did not include robust age-verification, it needed to comply with that rule.
We acknowledged that Robbie Savage had played football for several Premier League teams and at an international level for Wales. However, we considered that, because he had not been a Premier League player for 15 years, and his Wales career had ended four years before that, he was now more likely to be recognisable as a pundit and for his other football- and media-related activities. We therefore assessed the appeal Mr Savage was likely to have on the basis of those associations.
We understood that Mr Savage was a regular pundit on BT Sports Score and co-hosted the 606 show, a football phone-in show on weekend evenings on BBC Radio 5. We considered that those programmes, with their focus on discussion of tactics and team performance, were primarily aimed at adult audiences, and that was reflected in the low proportion of younger viewers and listeners. We also understood Robbie Savage featured in a 2021 BBC Three documentary in his role as Director of Football at Macclesfield FC; again, we considered that the emphasis on financial and strategic issues in that programme was adult in tone.
Outside of his football-related roles, Robbie Savage had appeared as a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing, a TV programme popular with families. We considered, however, given the considerable time that had elapsed since his main appearance in 2011, that was sufficiently long ago not to be relevant to the current generation of under-18s.
Finally, we assessed Robbie Savage’s social media profile. He did not have public profiles on Snapchat, TikTok or Twitch. However, he did post regularly on Instagram and Twitter. Of his 133,000 Instagram followers, 2% were registered as under 18, which amounted to 2,260 users and 5% of his 99,000 Facebook followers were registered as under 18, which amounted to 4,950 users. Mr Savage had 1.6 million Twitter followers, of whom 0.1% were under 18, which amounted to 1,600 users. We considered that a total of 8,810 social media followers aged under 18 did not suggest a strong appeal to that age group. We therefore considered that his social media profile was unlikely to make him of strong appeal to under-18s.
We also considered there was nothing in the way he was presented in the ad that would have strongly attracted the attention of under-18s or was likely to render him of strong appeal to them.
For those reasons, we concluded that the ad was not of strong appeal to children or young persons.
We investigated the ad under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 16.1, 16.3 and 16.3.12 (Gambling), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.