ASA rules on Two Paddy Power TV Ads
LONDON, U.K. (February 8, 2023) — On February 8, the ASA published its rulings on two TV ads for Paddy Power. The ASA held that the two ads, which were both screened on TV, were not deemed by the ASA to have breached advertising regulations and, therefore, the complaints about these ads were not upheld.
Each of the ads are described below, along with the ASA’s rationale for its ruling.
a. The first TV ad featured a choir singing Christmas carols in a hall. A woman was playing the piano whilst also watching a football game on her phone. When a goal was scored in the football game, Peter Crouch, who was conducting the choir, turned round to lead a Mexican wave with the audience. Peter Crouch appeared in various other clips in the ad, including celebrating on stage with the choir and being turned away from a pub because it was full. Another scene showed on-screen text that stated, “COMPLETELY FREE BET BUILDER ON ALL ENGLAND GAMES”. The ad ended with a scene of a plate with Peter Crouch on it and text that stated, “PADDY POWER WHERE WERE YOU IN 22?”.
During the ad, a voice-over stated, “You hear that? That’s the sound of Christmas and the world cup colliding. So come on all ye faithful, let’s be having ya. Glory to the king of headbutts. Knit those kits. Cross those sprouts. Stuff those turkeys. And attack those carols. Cause from this day we’ll forever ask where were you in twenty-two.” Another voice-over stated, “Celebrate with a completely free bet builder on all England games. Paddy Power, where were you in twenty-two?”
b. The second TV ad was a shortened version of the ad (a) but featured the same scenes of Peter Crouch conducting the choir and celebrating with them on stage. It also ended with the scene of a plate with Peter Crouch on it and text that stated, “PADDY POWER WHERE WERE YOU IN 22?”.
Two complainants, who believed that Peter Crouch was likely to be of strong appeal to those under 18 years of age, challenged whether the ads breached the Code.
PPB Counterparty Services Ltd t/a Paddy Power said that they did not agree that Peter Crouch was of strong appeal to under-18s.
They said Peter Crouch’s professional career as a footballer ended in 2019 and this could not be described as a ‘recent’ retirement. They referred to the CAP and BCAP guidance Gambling and lotteries advertising: protecting under-18s, which stated that long-retired footballers who were now known for punditry were of low risk of strong appeal to children.
They said that although Peter Crouch made a number of appearances for the England national team, the last of those were in 2010. Given the considerable time that had elapsed, they did not believe it would be reasonable to deduce that his international career had retained residual appeal to children in 2022. They believed Peter Crouch was more widely recognised as a football pundit and entertainer than as a former Premier League footballer. At the time the ads were shown, Peter Crouch was 41. Paddy Power believed Peter Crouch’s media profile was consistent with that of a 41-year-old man and were not likely to be aspirational to under-18s in any way.
In terms of his post-international footballing career, from 2011 until his retirement, Peter Crouch played for Stoke City or Burnley. These were not large clubs with significant national or international supporter bases, or which were likely to have a large following of young people outside of their local area. He made six appearances for Burnley in the Premier League in the final year of his career, all of which were as a substitute. Until 2021, he held the record for the highest number of substitute appearances in the Premier League and 2014 was the last season he made more starting appearances than substitute appearances. As a result, he spent significantly less time on the pitch than many of his comparable peers, which further reduced the likelihood of his appeal to children, when the ads were broadcast, as a result of his playing career. When he played at Stoke City, the club was relegated from the Premier League in his penultimate year there and, as such, he spent a period playing in the Championship before signing for Burnley. Therefore, his very limited number of appearances for Burnley, the number of substitution appearances he made and Stoke City’s relegation to a lower league at the end of his career there, reduced his notoriety as a Premier League footballer to children and young people at the time the ads were broadcast.
Peter Crouch did not have public accounts on TikTok, Facebook or Twitch at the time the ads were broadcast, and his Instagram account had not been updated since 2014. He did have a public account on Twitter that, at the time the ads were seen, had almost 1.5 million followers. The demographic data from September to December 2022 showed that 0.46% of his followers were aged 13-17 years. Other data showed that the top topics his followers were interested in were markedly adult themes, and included: domestic and US politics, business, finance, technology and government institutions. They believed that his limited profile on social media reduced his appeal to children by default.
They said they also considered the audience demographic of the TV programmes Peter Crouch was predominantly known for. He appeared as a panellist for series two of The Masked Dancer. They provided Broadcaster’s Audience Research Board (BARB) data which they said showed that the programme was of more appeal to an older demographic than a younger one. They provided the audience index status of the programme which they believe demonstrated that the programme would not have been categorised as being ‘likely to appeal to children’. They understood that the show was intended to appeal to a broad range of ages and demographics and therefore its panel of judges and featured contestants were carefully selected to appeal to a range of people. They did not believe that watching a TV programme which had a large and diverse cast denoted a specific interest in Peter Crouch, nor lead to an increase in his appeal to children.
Peter Crouch was a football pundit for BT Sport, which was a subscription-only paid service. They did not believe that detailed pundit-based discussions around tactics and team performance were of strong appeal to children. They provided BARB data that they believed supported that this was the case.
Peter Crouch was featured in the grass-roots football documentary series Save Our Beautiful Game, which covered issues related, in a serious and adult tone, to the financial struggle to keep a lower-league club alive. The show was shown on Discovery+ and Amazon Prime, both of which were subscription-only services.
Peter Crouch had also appeared in his own TV shows in 2020 and 2021, Peter Crouch: Save Our Summer and Crouchy’s Year-Late Euros: Live, respectively. Both shows were broadcast after the watershed and were targeted at an adult audience. They provided BARB data that they believed supported that was the case.
Peter Crouch also hosted the podcast That Peter Crouch Podcast. Paddy Power provided demographic data of the podcasts’ listeners which they believed supported that it had a distinctly low appeal to children. The podcast had an Instagram and YouTube account and the demographic data for those showed that 1.5% of the podcast’s Instagram followers in the previous 30 days were aged between 13 and 17 years and that 0.1% of people who had engaged with the podcast’s YouTube channel in the previous 28 days were aged between 13 and 17 years.
Paddy Power also reviewed Peter Crouch’s endorsements. He had partnerships with Ted Baker, L’Oreal and Carphone Warehouse. However, they believed those were all targeted at adults. In the summer of 2022, Peter Crouch launched an alcoholic drink with Brewdog. They believed that further demonstrated he had an overwhelmingly adult commercial appeal.
He has also published a range of autobiographical-style books, all of which were targeted at an adult audience and was a columnist for the Daily Mail, a newspaper that was targeted at adults.
Commenting on the World Cup and Christmas themes in the ad, they said that in 2022, for the first time, the World Cup was set across the Christmas period. The voice-over in the ads placed them within that context from the outset. The central theme of the ads was the World Cup rather than Christmas and the purpose of the ads was to advertise Paddy Power’s offer of a ‘completely free Bet Builder on all England Games’ in the World Cup.
They did not believe that the concept of Christmas in and of itself was likely to be of strong appeal to children. They took care to ensure the ads only referred to aspects of Christmas that were of strong appeal to adults. The carol singers depicted were all obviously adults and the organist was an older woman. They sang a well-known football chant which was popular with an older demographic of football fans. Although the ad showed a Christmas tree, it was placed in the background of the shot rather than being prominently positioned. It was decorated in a muted fashion and not in a bright and colourful manner that was likely to appeal to children. Similarly, the Christmas lights were deliberately dimmed rather than being bright and colourful. The ads featured a pub setting, which was a context that was unlikely to appeal to children. The ads depicted Christmas tropes, which they believed resonated with adults, such as ugly knitted Christmas wear. They did not depict any of the features of Christmas generally associated with children or young people, such as Christmas stockings, new toys or leaving food out for Santa Claus. The ad carefully weaved adult concepts of Christmas with famous sporting moments which were only likely to be recognised by adults, either because they were adult in tone or referred to famous historical footballing moments. The footballing scene depicted in lights took place at the World Cup final in 2006.
They did not believe that the Christmas context of the ads made Peter Crouch more likely to appeal to under-18s.
Clearcast said Paddy Power provided them with a list of Peter Crouch’s media activities, endorsement, and former and current projects, and they were assured that all projects were aimed at an adult market.
They endorsed Paddy Power’s comments that both Peter Crouch’s own social media demographics and that of his podcasts demonstrated that he had low appeal to under-18s and that children only made up a small minority of the audiences of the shows that he featured in, including The Masked Dancer. They also endorsed Paddy Power’s comments that the ads did not conflate Christmas and festive activities with youth appeal, and particularly highlighted that the ads were in line with previously broadcast betting ads that featured Christmas iconography.
They were satisfied that Peter Crouch and the Christmas setting did not have a strong appeal to under-18s or youth culture, and therefore the ads complied with the Code.
The BCAP Code stated that ads for gambling products must not be likely to be of strong appeal to children (aged 0-15) or young persons (aged 16 and 17), 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 a 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.
The ad promoted Paddy Power’s free ‘Bet Builder’ on England matches in the 2022 FIFA World Cup and prominently featured Peter Crouch. Joint CAP and BCAP Advertising Guidance – Gambling and lotteries advertising: protecting under-18s (the B/CAP Guidance) – said that some activities, which included betting ads for football, were considered to have strong appeal to under-18s and were therefore prohibited unless steps had been taken to limit the potential for the ad to appeal strongly to under-18s. This included limiting the use of people who were likely to have strong appeal to under-18s. We, therefore, considered whether Peter Crouch had a strong appeal to under-18s.
We noted Peter Crouch was a retired football player who had not played professionally since 2019. We considered that meant he was not long retired from playing competitive football. However, in the year that he retired, he played in six games for Burnley in the Premier League, all of which he came on as a substitute. Prior to that, since 2011, he played for Stoke City in the Premier League. Particularly in his later years at the club, a large number of his appearances were as a substitute. During his earlier football career, we understood that Peter Crouch played for Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool and Aston Villa. He also played for England from 2005 until 2010. We, therefore, considered that, although during his earlier career, he would have been widely recognisable, since 2011 he played for less popular clubs and, as a result, would not have been of strong appeal to under-18s due to his career as a footballer at the time the ads were broadcast.
Since his retirement from football, he had been associated with a number of TV programmes and other media roles. We, therefore, assessed the appeal he was likely to have based on those associations.
He did not have public profiles on Facebook, TikTok or Twitch and he had not posted on his Instagram for a long time. In addition, notwithstanding that Twitter was a media environment where users self-verified on customer sign-up and did not use robust age verification, we considered that the evidence demonstrated that he had a very small number of followers on Twitter who were aged under 18. We, therefore, considered that his social media profile was unlikely to make him of strong appeal to under-18s.
We noted he had been involved in a number of TV programmes, which included Save Our Beautiful Game, Peter Crouch: Save Our Summer and Crouchy’s Year-Late Euros: Live, as well as being a football pundit on BT Sport. We considered that those programmes were primarily aimed at adult audiences. Similarly, his podcast was aimed at an adult audience, with very few children in the audience, and his commercial partnerships were with adult-focused brands.
We noted he was also a panellist on season two of The Masked Dancer, which was shown on Saturdays at 6.30 pm on ITV from September to October 2022, and was therefore a recent activity. We understood that the programme, which featured a panel of celebrities guessing the identity of celebrities dancing whilst dressed in costume, was a family entertainment programme. It was light-hearted and involved brightly coloured and elaborate costumes, dancing and popular music. The total viewing figures of children who watched any of the eight episodes in the series, taken from BARB data, was 8.5 million. Whilst children who watched more than one episode were counted at separate times, we nonetheless considered that the data showed the programme was of appeal to children. Furthermore, we understood that Peter Crouch himself, and many of the other celebrities involved in the show had expressed that their own children enjoyed the show. Additionally, Newsround, a BBC news programme for children, had published a number of articles about the programme which demonstrated they considered it was of interest to them. We, therefore, considered that while the programme had a broad audience demographic and was not more popular with children than adults, it nonetheless attracted a significant number of under-18s to watch it. We considered that in some circumstances an appearance by an individual on a programme that was watched by a significant number of under-18s might provide evidence that the person was of strong appeal to children and young people. The B/CAP Guidance stated that gambling advertisers were advised to avoid featuring persons or characters with obvious and direct links to under-18s, including a current or recent children’s TV personality. A further example given in the Guidance of a person likely to be of ‘strong’ appeal to under-18s included a retired sportsperson who has moved into presenting/broadcasting relating to that sport, but also into other areas, like youth-oriented reality TV. However, in this case, we considered it relevant that Peter Crouch appeared as one of four panellists, that the programme was of broad demographic appeal and that there was no evidence that his role in the programme had led to him being viewed in an aspirational or influential way by under-18s. This was supported by the evidence provided by Paddy Power in relation to his social media profile. We, therefore, considered that his appearance in a number of TV programmes, including The Masked Dancer, was unlikely to make him of strong appeal to under-18s.
Finally, we considered whether the Christmas focus of the ad made it more likely to appeal strongly to under-18s. Although the ads made clear references to Christmas, we considered that there was nothing in relation to Christmas that would have been of strong appeal to children, such as depicting Santa Claus.
We, therefore, concluded that the ads were not of strong appeal to children or young persons.
No further action is necessary.
Source: The Advertising Standards Authority.Tags: Advertising Standards Authority, Paddy Power