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Betfred ads featuring boxer Anthony Joshua banned because of appeal to under-18s

The ruling forms part of wider work by the Advertising Standards Authority banning gambling ads which are likely to have a strong appeal to under-18s

Josie Clarke
Wednesday 01 November 2023 03:13 GMT
Boxer Anthony Joshua featured in online posts for bookmaker Betfred (Zac Goodwin/PA)
Boxer Anthony Joshua featured in online posts for bookmaker Betfred (Zac Goodwin/PA) (PA Archive)

Three tweets for bookmaker Betfred featuring Anthony Joshua have been banned after a watchdog found the boxer’s strong appeal among under-18s broke gambling ad rules.

The first of the three posts in March and April, which promoted a forthcoming fight for the boxer, featured Joshua being interviewed by commentator Dom McGuinness about his diet ahead of his bout against Jermaine Franklin, with text stating: “How does @anthonyjoshua stay in shape? A diet consisting of bananas with rice & ketchup with sweetcorn. How does @ant_crolla stay in shape? Guinness.”

The second tweet featured a video of Joshua being interviewed about how he prepares for fights, while the third included excerpts from an interview about his mentality when fighting.

The ruling forms part of wider work by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) banning gambling ads which, under strengthened rules, are prohibited for being likely to be of strong appeal to under-18s.

They were identified for investigation with the use of AI to search for online ads that might break the rules.

Betfred acknowledged that Joshua is “undoubtedly a star in the sport of boxing”, but said he is reaching the end of his career and, therefore, the ads posed a low risk of appealing to children.

Social media data showed that none of Joshua’s followers on X/Twitter, Facebook or TikTok was registered as being between 13 and 17 years old, while 5 per cent of his Snapchat followers and 6.6 per cent of his Instagram followers were registered as being between 13 and 17 years old.

Overall, the company said, he has 29.3 million followers worldwide, which it acknowledged means he has a substantial social media presence, with 1.1 million users registered as being under 18.

He has 7.2 million followers in total in the UK and, assuming age breakdowns in the UK mirror worldwide figures, Betfred believes approximately 280,000 of Joshua’s UK followers are under 18.

It acknowledged that the total number excludes Snapchat, for which it did not have UK-specific data.

The ASA noted that Joshua is a 33-year-old former world champion boxer who is considered a high-profile “star” in the sport.

It said: “Although they made up a small proportion of his total followers, we considered that over 1.1 million followers aged under 18 was a significant number in absolute terms.

“We therefore considered that, because he had such large numbers of social media followers who were under 18, Mr Joshua was of inherent strong appeal to under-18s.”

Betfred is committed to ensuring that our marketing does not have a strong appeal to under-18s, and we are firmly of the view that the posting of these interviews with Anthony Joshua in no way undermined that commitment

Betfred

The ASA ruled that the ads must not appear again in their current form, adding: “We told Betfred not to include a person or character who had strong appeal to those under 18 years of age in their advertising in future.”

Betfred said it will be seeking an independent review of “this unjust decision”.

A spokesman said: “Betfred is committed to ensuring that our marketing does not have a strong appeal to under-18s, and we are firmly of the view that the posting of these interviews with Anthony Joshua in no way undermined that commitment.

“It should also be remembered that the ASA did not receive a single complaint from a member of the public about our association with Anthony Joshua in this respect.”

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