UK Bans Influencers in Gambling Advertisements

UK Bans Influencers in Gambling Advertisements

The Committee for Advertising Practice CAP has implemented new rules for gambling advertisements in the UK, which came into force in October. The rules include banning adverts with a “strong appeal” to those under 18, such as marketing focusing on top-tier footballers and social influencers.

The rules were first published in April 2022 and, despite criticism during the consultation period, were added to the CAP Code on October 1st, meaning all UK marketing must uphold the new standards.

The exact wording from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) website states that the move will “significantly impact gambling advertisers looking to promote their brands using prominent sports people and celebrities as well as individuals like social media influencers, who are of strong appeal to those under 18.”

This leaves many gambling operators with an issue, as top-league sports and celebrity sponsorship is a long-standing practice in the gambling industry, with many operators using high-worth individuals to advertise their brands. With restrictions already in place, these operators must start from scratch and rethink their marketing campaigns.

“A Step too Far”?

While many welcome the new CAP regulations, others have called it a step too far, a rebuke often levelled at the UK gambling industry and its regulations. While it’s always been challenging to determine what appeals to children in advertising, this blanket ban might not be the fairest way.

On the other hand, the effects of unrestricted reliance on celebrities and sporting stars for gambling advertisement can be seen within the US, where brands like BetMGM regularly use tier 1 sports sponsorship and, more recently, even named a former Disney Channel Star as a brand ambassador.

The Disney star, Vanessa Hudgens, has since featured in four Christmas movies, each rated under 12. Hence, she is popular with underage audiences and could link or sway them towards gambling. It’s situations such as this, where the marketing could attract children, that the UK seeks to avoid.

Stars Under the Spotlight

Criticism of the gambling industry in the UK is currently high, which has in the past led to the brand ambassadors themselves falling foul of the public. For example, a 2019 BetVictor Harry Redknapp collab caused a stir because Redknapp had stared in I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here, the previous year and the show was viewed by those under 18s.

Even those adverts with little appeal to underage audiences have come under fire: In 2019, Jose Mourinho featured in a Paddy Power ad which promoted 100 free spins for new players. It was later reported that Mourinho was encouraged to step away from the deal as it was criticised as “unethical”.

Moreover, celebrities come with their own pressure groups and external influences, which opens them and gambling brands to more potential criticism. With so much industry backlash, many operators have already independently changed track, turning away from celebrity deals to other marketing methods.

The Pushback

Gambling industry stakeholders have taken issue, stating the wording of “strong appeal” is not clear enough guidance for operators to follow.

Additionally, during the consultation period, The Betting and Gaming Council said the regulation was “disproportionate and did not make sense.” Adding, “while we understand CAP and UK Code of Broadcast Advertising’s aims, we don’t believe that the effect of this restriction is proportionate.”

The new CAP rule is yet another in a series of more recent industry regulations, which greater restrict what UK gambling operators can and cannot do. And it comes into force when operators await the new government white paper’s publication. However, it’s just another opportunity to innovate in a competitive industry!

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