Sky Bet becomes latest to fall foul of ASA for Gary Neville tweet

Sky Bet has become the latest operator to fall foul of ongoing Advertising Standard Authority monitoring of ads that it deems likely to have a strong appeal to under-18s.

These were identified for investigation following intelligence gathered by its Active Ad Monitoring system, which uses AI to proactively search for online ads that might break the rules.

In this latest instance, following previous action against the likes of Ladbrokes, bet365 and WIlliam Hill, the advertising watchdog raised another challenge regarding a promoted Tweet.

This contained an embedded video clip from The Overlap football podcast, which showed Gary Neville discussing which team might win the Premier League.

The Sky Bet logo and occupying text was evidenced at different stages of the clip, with the BeGambleAware logo also appearing towards its culmination. The ASA challenged whether the aforementioned individual would likely be of a strong appeal to those under 18 years of age.

Sky Bet stresses ad was distinctly adult in tone

In its response, SkyBet noted that it had “worked extensively” with the CAP to ensure that ads complied with requirements, as well as noting that the aforementioned YouTube series, sponsored by the gambling brand, “was distinctly adult in tone”.

Despite featuring a debate that covered topics such as Manchester United and Liverpool, Sky Bet pointed out that “such pundit-based discussions had been judged in previous ASA rulings not to be of strong appeal to children”.

Data supplied by the operator suggested just 1.2 per cent of The Overlap’s audience was aged 13-17, with that figure dropping to 0.5 per cent for the advertised episode.

As well as acknowledging that his time as an international and Premier League footballer, Sky Bet stressed a belief that he is now more widely recognisable as a football pundit, political commentator and successful businessman. This, it was added, is how his profile, including that of social media, was assessed.

“Sky Bet believed Mr Neville was intrinsically connected to political matters in the public consciousness, which was unlikely to appeal to children and young people, who, they suggested, could be said to be entirely disinterested in such matters,” it was added.

Despite not having personal YouTube or Twitch accounts, further data suggested that of Neville’s 1.6 million Instagram followers, five per cent were aged 13-17. 

Audience demographics for his TikTok and Facebook accounts were requested, but those platforms did not publish data for individuals registered as under 18.

In addition to touching upon further TV work as evidence of a lack of appeal to under-18s, SkyBet also assessed his current and previous endorsements.

These, it was noted to the ASA, were “few and clearly targeted at an adult audience”, such as a partnership with Castore, columns in the Daily Mail and The Telegraph and a number of books. 

“As owner of a property investment company and co-owner of a hospitality management company, he was also known as a successful businessman,” it was added.

“They believed that his co-ownership and former CEO role at EFL League 2 football team, Salford City, would not make him of strong appeal to under-18s because he operated behind the scenes at a lower-league club.

“They said Gary Neville had been a brand ambassador for Sky Bet since 2018 and was widely recognised for his connection to their products, which were solely targeted at adults. 

“They confirmed that the promoted tweet had been targeted at users registered as being over 25 years old who had a known interest in sport and who would therefore be likely to be interested in The Overlap.”

X believed the ad did not breach any of their current policies, and added they had not received any complaints in relation to it.

Gary Neville ‘of inherent strong appeal to under-18s’

Citing updated CAP guidance that was introduced by October 1, 2022, the ASA noted that it “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. 

“We acknowledged that the ad was targeted at over-25s, however, because it had appeared in a medium where under-18s could not be entirely excluded from the audience due to users self-verifying their age on sign-up, it needed to comply with that rule.”

Furthermore, it was also deemed that his prominence as an ex-high profile footballer, as well as work as a well-known pundit, means that Neville “was likely to have to under-18s on that basis”.

“The B/CAP guidance classed retired footballers who had moved into punditry as likely to be of ‘moderate risk’ of strong appeal to under-18s and stated that they would be assessed on the basis of their social and other media profile,” it was added.

Furthermore, in terms of social media usage, it was considered that he “was of inherent strong appeal to under-18s” due to boasting “such large numbers of social media followers that were under 18”.

The ad must not appear again in its current form, with Sky Bet warned to not include a person or character that has strong appeal to those under 18 years of age in their advertising in future.