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Tottenham Hotspur rapped by ASA for use of young player in betting tweet

Published on 05 July 2019

When is it possible to feature an individual under the age of 25 in a gambling ad?

The background

Tottenham Hotspur’s heartbreak in Madrid was not the only loss they suffered on their Champions League journey this year. Their tweet announcing their starting line-up, before their knock-out round game against Borussia Dortmund, contained a link to the William Hill website and was deemed to contravene the CAP Code as it was socially irresponsible.

The ad

The tweet, viewed on 5 March 2019, was challenged by the ASA as it consisted of an image of the starting line-up where two of the players, Harry Winks and Davinson Sanchez, were under the age of 25 as well as a link to the William Hill website, an image of the gambling operator’s logo and accompanying text which read “Latest odds from @WilliamHill”.

The response

Tottenham Hotspur and William Hill contested that Harry Winks and Davinson Sanchez were included in the image because they were in the starting line-up. In addition, they argued that whilst both players were under 25 years of age, they were neither the centre of attention of the ad nor shown on an individual basis and were not of more importance to the team than the other players in the image. Finally, they claimed that the underage players were in the image alongside the rest of the starting line-up, all of whom were over the age limit of 25.

The decision

In response to Tottenham and William Hill’s arguments, the ASA determined that Tottenham’s tweet had dual purposes; the first was to notify Twitter users of the starting line-up, and the second, judged to be equally important, was to offer users the chance to bet on the game.

The ASA considered the situation with regards to Rule 16.3.14 of the CAP Code which states that “no one who is, or seemed to be, under 25 years old may be featured playing a significant role in marketing communications”. The ASA held that whilst Harry Winks and Davinson Sanchez were of no greater significance than the other players in the line-up, each player had a similar “significant” role in the marketing communication.

The ASA also looked at whether the inclusion of Harry Winks and Davinson Sanchez in the tweet fell under the exceptions that this rule contains, namely:

  • those under 25 may appear in marketing communications that are located in a place where a bet can actually be made
  • the person under 25 may only be used in those communications to highlight specific betting selections where that person is the subject of the bet offered. The image or depiction used must show them in the context of the bet and not in a gambling context.

As the tweet was from Tottenham Hotspur’s twitter account and not a transactional facility through which a bet could be placed, such as William Hill’s own website, nor had the underage players been used to illustrate specific betting selections where they were the subject of the bet offered, the ASA found that the ad did not fall into the above exceptions and was, therefore, socially irresponsible and in breach of the CAP Code. 

Why is this important?

This ruling highlights the strict application of the “significant role” in Rule 16.3.14 and 18.16 of the CAP Code which relates to under-25s appearing in alcohol ads. It reinforces how careful gambling operators and alcohol companies need to be. Even when the younger individual is in a group with older individuals, the significance of that role will not become less so because there are other individuals also playing significant roles in the same marketing communication.

Any practical tips?

If you wish to place an individual under the age of 25 in a gambling ad, make sure that the ad is placed in a location where a customer can make a bet and ensure that where the individual is used they are only there to illustrate specific betting selections where they are the subject of the bet offered. The image or other depiction used must show them in the context of the bet and not in the gambling context.

Above all, keep on your toes when it comes to team shots! Younger age players (ie under 25 from a gambling and alcohol perspective) can easily be in a shot which the marketing team wishes to use in an ad. Think about educating the team, including those tending your social media accounts. You don’t want your ads receiving the wrong type of (regulatory) attention!

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