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The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has not upheld a complaint against bet365 relating to a promoted tweet featuring professional boxer Chris Eubank Jr.

The tweet was seen in January 2023 ahead of a boxing match between Eubank and Liam Smith, with a caption encouraging Twitter users to “click for the latest odds.”

Boxing has no ‘strong appeal’ to children

In its assessment, the ASA determined that the use of Eubank in marketing materials was “unlikely to be of inherent strong appeal to under-18s.”

That was due to a combination of factors, including that boxing is considered an “adult-oriented sport,” while viewer data from the event itself confirmed that the majority of its viewers were adults.

Still, because the ad appeared on social media, where under-18s cannot be entirely excluded from the audience, the ASA said that it needed to comply with rules, stating ads “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.”

After consideration, the regulator determined that “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.”

Eubank’s following

To reach its conclusion, the ASA also analysed the demographics of Eubank’s social media followings, and found that the vast majority of his fans were adults.

On Facebook, for example, just 0.1% of Eubank’s followers were registered as under 18. On Twitter and Instagram, 0.3% and 0.4% of followers respectively were registered as under 18.

Eubank’s TikTok account told a slightly different story, with 31.7% of his 21,300 followers on that platform registered as under 18.

Bet365 argued, however, that the operator does not have a profile or presence on TikTok, and that therefore none of Eubank’s followers on that platform could see bet365 content.

The majority of Eubank’s followers are also split among the first three platforms, and across all platforms together, the proportion of his followers under the age of 18 was around 0.6% in total.

Boxing vs. football

The ruling stands in contrast to other recent ASA judgements, particularly those considering the use of professional footballers in gambling ads.

In April, the authority ruled a BetVictor ad on Facebook as “irresponsible” for its use of Spanish footballers Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets.

The ASA ruled the ad was likely to have a strong appeal to under-18s due to its use of active players in top-flight football.

Meanwhile, previous rulings on the use of retired footballers, including Peter Crouch and Harry Redknapp, saw the authority suggest that non-active footballers held a decidedly less strong appeal to under-18s.

Posting on LinkedIn, lawyer Melanie Ellis of Northridge Law LLP suggested the latest ruling was “very useful” in helping to understand where the ASA draws the line on the use of professional athletes in gambling advertising.

After the ASA ruled in favour of bet365 in this case, Ellis suggested: “An interesting question is whether the ruling would have been different if a current professional footballer was used, who had the same profile and social media following as Eubank. 

“The ASA’s guidance is not completely clear on the impact of a character being of ‘inherent strong appeal’, given that their profile and following must be assessed either way.”

Ellis added that the ASA had in this case undertaken “a risk-based assessment,” whereby “the higher the inherent appeal, the higher the standard of evidence needed to prove the contrary.”

The ASA’s approval of the ad “may be helpful when considering whether to feature athletes from other sports in the future,” she concluded.