Footballers, sportspeople and celebs popular with under-18s banned from gambling ads

Paddy Power: ad starring Jose Mourinho when he was manager of Spurs
Paddy Power: ad starring Jose Mourinho when he was manager of Spurs

New rules will affect marketing strategies of brands including Ladbrokes, Paddy Power and the National Lottery when they come into effect on 1 October.

The Committee for Advertising Practice – the body that forms the framework for the Advertising Standards Authority's decision-making – is to introduce stringent new rules that will ban footballers, celebs and influencers with strong appeal among under-18s from appearing in gambling ads.

The announcement, which follows a public consultation launched in October 2020 that sought views on CAP's proposed rules and guidance governing gambling marketing, means that prominent sportspeople, celebrities and social media influencers who appeal to under-18s will no longer be able to endorse gambling brands.

The new rules state that gambling and lottery ads must not "be likely to be of strong appeal to children or young persons, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture".

Up until now, the rules stated that gambling ads must not be of "particular appeal" to children – that is, it appeals more to an under-18 than an over-18 – regardless of how it is perceived by adults.

CAP acknowledged that the new rules will "significantly restrict the imagery and references that gambling ads will be allowed to use and should decrease the potential for gambling ads to attract the attention of under-18s in an audience".

Spelling out how the new legislation will apply, the organisation cited a number of examples:

  • Topflight footballers and footballers with a considerable following among under-18s on social media
  • All sportspeople well known to under-18s, including sportspeople with a considerable volume of under-18 followers on social media
  • References to video game content and gameplay popular with under-18s
  • Stars from reality shows popular with under-18s, such as Love Island

There are numerous examples of celebrity-brand tie-ups that will no longer be permitted under the new legislation. For instance, footballer Cristiano Ronaldo has worked with PokerStars to promote the brand, a relationship that kicked off in 2015; while former Chelsea manager José Mourinho has appeared in ads for Paddy Power, notably in 2019 when he was managing Tottenham Hotspur.

Shahriar Coupal, director of CAP, said: "The days of gambling ads featuring sports stars, video game imagery and other content of strong appeal to under-18s are numbered.

"By ending these practices, our new rules invite a new era for gambling ads, more particular to the adult audience they can target and more befitting of the age-restricted product they're promoting."

Gambling ads have been permitted on UK TV screens since 2007, when the Gambling Act came into being.

CAP's 2020 consultation was a response to GambleAware's Final Synthesis Report: The impact of gambling marketing and advertising on children, young people and vulnerable adults.


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