ASA rules against LeoVegas BetUK ad


The ASA ruling found that a radio advert for LeoVegas’s BetUK brand featuring former footballer Adebayo Akinfenwa stating that he was a brand ambassador for the company had breached its new guidance, which requires gambling companies to ensure that their ads are not attractive to under 18s.

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.

A radio ad for BetUK, heard on 27 September 2023, featured retired footballer Adebayo Akinfenwa stating that he was a brand ambassador for the company. He went on to say, “You can now find a range of tools on the BetUK website. You can set deposit limits, schedule reality checks and set timeouts to help you stay in control. Always gamble responsibly at BetUK.”

The complainant challenged whether the ad featured an individual who was likely to be of strong appeal to those under 18 years of age, and therefore breached the Code.

LeoVegas Gaming plc t/a BetUK said they had given full consideration to the Joint CAP and BCAP Advertising Guidance “Gambling and lotteries advertising: protecting under-18s” (the B/CAP guidance) when assessing Mr Akinfenwa. They believed that he did not appeal strongly to under-18s.

They believed that, because Mr Akinfenwa was 41 years old and a former footballer who had retired in May 2022, he was unlikely to be popular with under-18s. They explained that during his professional football career, he was not considered a ‘star’ player and he never played for a club in the Premier League. He spent the majority of his career playing for League One and League Two clubs, with only a brief amount of time spent playing in the Championship. Although he had played a small number of matches since retiring, those were charity matches and games which involved non-league clubs. Because his whole career was spent outside of the Premier League, BetUK considered his appeal to under-18s, as defined by the B/CAP guidance, was “low risk”.

Outside of his career as a footballer, BetUK said Mr Akinfenwa’s general media profile did not indicate he was likely to be of strong appeal to children. They said he had a clothing range (BeastModeOn), which they claimed had broad appeal and was marketed at people aged 16-66. They said he did not advertise any child-related products.

BetUK said Mr Akinfenwa had active accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter/X, TikTok and Snapchat. They said he posted content on a wide range of sports, including American football and boxing, as well as football. They said that on Instagram he had 116,200 followers who were under 18, which was 8% of his total followers on that platform, and on Snapchat 41,080 followers who were under 18, which was 13% of his total followers on that platform. They said age demographics were unavailable for Facebook, Twitter/X and TikTok.

BetUK also said the ad, which promoted ways to gamble responsibly, did not feature any content of a childish tone and was played during a radio show which was likely to have an adult audience.

Radiocentre agreed with the response BetUK provided and did not have any further comments to add.

From 1 October 2022, the BCAP 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, including by assessing the personal profile and following of the person or character (including social media follower demographics). We considered anyone with a significant under-18 following on social media was of “high risk” of appealing strongly to children.

We acknowledged that Mr Akinfenwa spent the majority of his football career playing for clubs in Leagues One and Two, which were the third and fourth tiers of English football respectively. He spent one season playing in the Championship, which was the second tier, for Wycombe Wanderers, but he had never played for a club in the Premier League. He had also never represented his country in international football and had not played for any prominent clubs abroad.