ASA rules against Festival Free Bets ad featuring Astrid Wett

United Kingdom

On 15 May 2024, the Advertising Standards Authority (the “ASA”) issued a ruling against Festival Free Bets for a social media post featuring an image of Astrid Wett at Cheltenham racecourse, who is under 25 years old.

The ASA has previously upheld rulings where an individual’s social media presence significantly influenced whether an ad appeals to children, as seen in the People’s Postcode Lottery ad featuring Emma Willis, which was held to have a strong appeal to under 18s (read more here).

The Advertisement

On 12 March 2024, a post on Astrid Wett’s X (formerly Twitter) page, for Festival Free Bets, a company which collated betting offers, featured an image of Astrid Wett at Cheltenham racecourse.

The complainant challenged whether the ad breached the rules on gambling advertising because it featured Astrid Wett, who was under 25 years old.

Festival Free Bets’ Response

Festival Free Bets did not respond to the ASA’s investigation.

Astrid Wett expressed her commitment to social responsibility and acknowledged the importance of promoting responsible behaviour, particularly in the context of gambling. Unaware of the age restrictions outlined in the CAP Code for gambling service ads, she assumed being over 18 years old was adequate for promoting such content. She apologised for breaching the Code and affirmed her dedication to ensuring compliance with all relevant guidelines.

The Ruling

The ASA expressed their concern over Festival Free Bets' failure to respond and apparent disregard for the Code, concluding that they had violated CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.7 (Unreasonable delay). The company was reminded of their obligation to promptly address inquiries and urged compliance in the future.

According to the CAP Code, marketing communications must demonstrate responsibility towards consumers and society. Furthermore, individuals under 25 years old should not prominently feature in gambling service ads, unless the ad allows direct betting through a transactional facility, such as a gambling operator’s website, where the individual is the subject of the bet.

While acknowledging Festival Free Bets' status as a non-licensed gambling provider, using its services would expose consumers to gambling activities. Therefore, featuring an individual under 25 in their ads was deemed irresponsible by the ASA.

Considering the ad's intent to promote gambling-related services and featuring an individual under 25 in a prominent role, the ASA concluded that it violated CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.3 (Social responsibility). Festival Free Bets were told that the ad must not appear in its current format. They were instructed to refrain from featuring individuals who appear to be under 25 years old in prominent roles within marketing communications promoting services that facilitate consumer interaction with gambling providers. Additionally, the matter was escalated to CAP’s Compliance team for further review.

Comment

This ASA ruling underlines the increased scrutiny of influencers’ presence in advertising, particularly in relation to underage appeal. It also warns companies of the potential repercussions of disregarding regulatory investigations.

Astrid Wett’s admission of ignorance regarding the age restrictions for gambling service ads highlights the need for industry education to ensure compliance with advertising standards. This ruling serves as a stark reminder to advertisers of the importance of adhering to responsible advertising practices, especially when targeting vulnerable demographics or promoting potentially harmful products.

Co-authored by Jade Anya, Trainee Solicitor