ASA Rules that a Paid-for Facebook ad for BetVictor was Irresponsible and Breached the Code
LONDON, U.K. (April 19, 2023)
A paid-for Facebook ad for BetVictor, seen in January 2023, featured an image of Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets playing for FC Barcelona. Above the image text stated, “Who is the most underrated player at the club you support?” The BetVictor logo and text “BetVictor” are featured in the top corner of the ad.
The ASA challenged whether the ad included individuals likely to have strong appeal to under-18-year-olds, and therefore breached the Code.
BV Gaming t/a Bet Victor said they had procedures in place to ensure their advertising did not breach the Codes. They noted that CAP guidance stated that when a person or character was used to illustrate a subject of strong appeal to under-18s, their association with the subject was not a basis alone for the ASA to find an ad in breach of the Code.
They said that whilst FC Barcelona was a top-flight team, this would not mean that their players were well-known in the UK. They said that they did not consider that Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets fell into the category of ‘high risk’ as defined by CAP guidance. Specifically, they were not well-known star players like Messi, Mbappe, Xavi, Mane, Ronaldo or Benzema. Instead, they considered they fell within the ‘medium risk’ category of footballers with lower profiles at top Euro or World clubs. They said neither played in an attacking or goal-scoring position and that their names did not make headlines. In addition, neither player had ever scored against any UK team and had not played in a club match against any Premier League team since 2019 at the time the ad appeared.
They said that whilst both players had played for their country, their latest appearances for Spain had not resulted in any games against England or Wales. They said the last time Spain had played England was in 2018 and Jordi Alba had neither been in the team nor a substitute. They said the Spanish team had won the World Cup in 2010 and the European Cup in 2012, and any under-18s who witnessed those events and who might have formed an attachment to those players, would now be over 18. They said Jordi Alba did not play in the final of the World Cup in 2010 and Sergio Busquets only made his debut first-team appearance for Spain in that tournament. They said neither player had scored an international goal against a British team. They said to further understand the appeal of the Spanish national team to the UK, only six players on the team played in the Premier League. They said their conclusion was that both of those players had lower profiles and were therefore acceptable for inclusion in the post.
Bet Victor also said that neither player had a high-value, personal sponsorship deal with any major brand known in the UK, and they did not have a strong social media profile with those aged under-18. They said their preferred social media profile was on Twitter and Instagram rather than Snapchat, Twitch or Tiktok. Sergio Busquets’ last Twitter post was in May 2019 and Jordi Alba’s Twitter page and posts, as well as his Instagram posts, were in either Spanish or Catalan. They said that the demographic of their social media followers for both players was similar and that the followers from the UK did not feature in the top five countries where their followers were based.
They said Search Engine Optimisation data supported that neither footballer had a volume of Google searches in the UK as true ‘top-flight’ footballers and also had less than retired UK footballers. Sergio Busquets’ total UK searches were only 1.9% of Messi’s, 1.33% of Ronaldo’s and 4.46% of Mbappe’s in the week from 16 to 22 January 2023. They said this was similar for Jordi Alba, whose was 1.67% of Messi’s, 1.14% of Ronaldo’s and 3.8% of Mbappe’s. They said in the same time period Busquets’ searches were 15% of Micah Richards’ and 17% of Peter Crouch’s, whilst Alba’s were 13% of Micah Richards’ and 15% of Peter Crouch’s; both being former players who had been the subject of recent ASA Rulings on the subject of strong appeal to under-18s. They said that trend was consistent not only during the week the post was made but also during events such as the World Cup, where they did observe an increase in the UK search volume for the two players in the post. However, they considered that they were still materially lower than for personalities such as those of recently retired footballers and pundits that the ASA considered not to be of ‘strong’ appeal. They said there had not been an increase in search data as a result of the post.
Bet Victor said that whilst they understood the post was considered by the ASA as an ad because it was paid for, the post had been designed to engage people in conversation about topics they would be interested in. They said that there were no comments, links or calls to action back to betting sites or logos in the post (other than their own). They said it had only been paid for to ensure the ad had been appropriately targeted to users aged 25 and over. They said data they had from Facebook showed that 100% of the post’s viewers were over the age of 25.
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.
CAP guidance stated that, of relevance to gambling, football was the most prominent subject of strong appeal to under-18s. It was an activity in which a very significant proportion of under-18s participated directly on a frequent basis, and had a general interest in following professional teams, and players, across a variety of media. There was also a highly developed infrastructure around organised participation and the sport had an exceptionally high media profile. Those who played at an elite level, especially those who were successful internationally, were therefore likely to appeal strongly to children.
The guidance stated that non-UK ‘star’ footballers, particularly those at top European Clubs, were considered high-risk in terms of how likely they were to be of strong appeal to under-18s. We noted that the ad included Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets who were both current players at the European Football Club FC Barcelona and played for the Spanish national team.
FC Barcelona was a professional, top-flight football club that competed in Spain’s top league and was known to be one of the most widely supported and successful clubs in the world. We considered that they would be classed as a ‘top’ European club under CAP guidance.
We noted that Jordi Alba had been a player at FC Barcelona since 2012 and had won 16 major honours that included ten Spanish trophies as well as one UEFA Champions League title. At the time the ad appeared, Serqio Busquets had made nearly 700 appearances for FC Barcelona where he was the current captain and ranked third in terms of most appearances in Barcelona’s history. They were also both well-known members of the Spanish National team, with Sergio Busquets being the team’s captain at the time the ad appeared. They had both played for Spain during the most recent 2022 FIFA World Cup which had taken place shortly before the ad had been promoted. They had also been part of the Spanish team at the European championship in 2020, and both played in the Semi-Final against Italy in London at Wembley. Whilst Sergio Busquets had been the captain at both competitions, Jordi Alba had also taken on the role at the European Championship semi-final. Both of those international events had a large amount of media coverage in the UK and were prominent events that would have been of interest to under-18s. We considered that the role of captain for a team, particularly a national team would be likely to make a player more well-known and admired by under-18s.
For those reasons, we considered that they were ‘star’ players who had a high profile at a top European club and would be considered ‘high-risk’ according to CAP guidance, and therefore were likely to be of strong appeal to under-18s.
We considered that it would have been acceptable for the ad to appear in a medium where under-18s, for all intents and purposes, could be entirely excluded from the audience. That would apply in circumstances where those who saw the ad had been robustly age-verified as being 18 or older, such as through marketing lists that had been validated by payment data or credit checking. Because Facebook was a media environment where users self-verified on customer sign-up, and did not use robust age verification, we considered that Bet Victor had not excluded under-18s from the audience with the highest level of accuracy required for ads the content which was likely to appeal strongly to under-18s.
For those reasons, we concluded the ad was irresponsible and breached the Code.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) 16.1, 16.3 and 16.3.12 (Gambling).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told BV Gaming t/a Bet Victor not to include a person or character who had strong appeal to those under 18 years of age.
SOURCE: Advertising Standards Authority Ltd. (ASA).Tags: FC Barcelona, Facebook, BetVictor, Advertising Standards Authority Ltd. (ASA), Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets