by Adam Dworak

LeoVegas’ BetUK Ad Featuring Adebayo Akinfenwa Criticized for Under-18 Appeal

In a recent development, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld a complaint against a radio advertisement by LeoVegas Gaming plc, trading as BetUK.

The ad, which aired on 27 September 2023, featured retired footballer Adebayo Akinfenwa as a brand ambassador, promoting responsible gambling tools available on the BetUK website. The complaint centered around whether the inclusion of Akinfenwa, known for his unique physical prowess in football, breached advertising codes by appealing strongly to individuals under 18.

Background of the Complaint

The ASA’s scrutiny comes as part of broader efforts to enforce tightened regulations on gambling ads, particularly those with potential strong appeal to minors. BetUK’s ad emphasized responsible gambling, with Akinfenwa discussing features like deposit limits and reality checks designed to promote control over gambling habits.

BetUK’s Defense and ASA’s Assessment

BetUK argued that Akinfenwa, at 41 and retired from professional football since May 2022, held little appeal to the under-18 demographic. They pointed to his career outside the Premier League spotlight, mainly in League One and Two, as evidence of his limited appeal to younger audiences.

Furthermore, BetUK highlighted Akinfenwa’s broad-based appeal beyond football, citing his clothing brand and diverse social media content as indicators of his wide-reaching audience.

Despite these arguments, the ASA determined that Akinfenwa’s significant social media following, including a substantial number of under-18 followers, positioned him as a figure of strong appeal to children and young persons.

This decision was influenced by Akinfenwa’s “cult hero” status among football fans, bolstered by his media portrayal and the popularity of his “Beast Mode” persona in the FIFA videogame series.

The Ruling and Its Implications

The ASA’s ruling emphasizes the necessity for advertisers to thoroughly assess the appeal of personalities used in gambling promotions, especially in relation to under-18 audiences.

The significant social media presence of Akinfenwa, coupled with his unique reputation in football, led to the conclusion that his inclusion in the BetUK ad was likely to attract the attention of younger individuals, breaching BCAP Code rules on responsible gambling advertising.

Our Comment on the Article

The ASA’s decision to uphold the complaint against BetUK’s ad featuring Adebayo Akinfenwa underscores the ongoing challenges within the gambling industry to align marketing practices with regulatory standards aimed at protecting minors. This ruling not only highlights the nuanced considerations involved in assessing a personality’s appeal to under-18s but also serves as a reminder of the evolving landscape of gambling advertising regulations.

As the industry continues to navigate these complexities, the emphasis on safeguarding vulnerable populations remains paramount, reinforcing the importance of responsible marketing in the realm of gambling.

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