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Advertiser: Paddy Power
ASAI Code 7th Edition: 2.4(c), 3.3, 3.16, 3.17, 3.18, 10.12(a), 10.12(e), 10.17(a), 10.17(b), 10.17(g)
A Television advertisement featured a footballer and his wife together with racing personalities including two commentators and a jockey. The footballer was shown getting ready for a ‘day at the races’ at home and while doing so, the racing pundits commented on him using racing terms and in one scene, his wife throws a pair of underpants at the man.
The voiceovers in the advertisement stated:
Male voiceover 1: It's the Cheltenham Festival, the biggest week in jump racing and what a day of action we have in store for you today.”
Male voiceover 2: “And here's the Cheltenham favourite, number 4, definitely punching, and you can see why Gina.”
Female voiceover: “He hasn't got the most attractive head, he's a leggy sort, with a robotic stride, but he has an impressive turn of foot for his size.”
Male voiceover 2: “He must be 20 hands at least! He's moved stables a lot, but he's in form at home.”
Female voiceover: “Just loves the big occasion! Jumps for fun.”
Male voiceover 2: “Feature at stud Gina?”
Female voiceover: “Not sure Matt, unlikely to be wanted for breeding.
It's nearly time. Worthy favourite Matt?”
Male voiceover 2: “Definitely the favourite Gina. He's prepared, he'll stay all day.”
Male voiceover 3: “Even the Irish would back this English banker.”
Male voiceover 1: “This Cheltenham, don't feel like a punter, feel like a favourite with great offers on the Paddy Power App.”
Nine consumer complainants objected to the advertising on the following grounds:
One complainant considered that the advertisement was making gambling seem as if it was a part of normal life and that it was putting humour into gambling, making it seem to be fun.
Several complainants objected to the advertising on the grounds that it was offensive and sexist to men. The complainants objected to the comparison of the man to a racehorse and to the woman throwing a pair of underpants at him which they considered was demeaning and sexist to men. Several complainants also referred to the commentary in the advertisement to the man’s ability to breed and said that if this comment had been made in regard to a woman it would be considered inappropriate and lacking sensitivity.
Several complainants objected to the use of the word “banker” in the advertisement on the grounds that they considered it offensive as it was suggestive and was being used in a derogatory way. One complainant considered that the term was implying that Irish people were stupid and racist, while another considered that it was racist to English people.
The advertisers said that they sought to promote advertising campaigns that are daring, sharp-witted and on-the-ball as these are their brand pillars, alongside positioning their Paddy Power brand as the kind of friend with whom you would converse with about topics raised in their sports and gaming advertising generally. They believed that it could be said that the public in Ireland and the UK recognised that their marketing campaigns contain a humorous and mischievous element, to the extent that their mischief is rooted in popular culture and news events. They said that it was never their intention to cause offence with the advertisement and they regretted if offence was caused to the complainants in this instance, however, they did not believe that offence was a rational response to the advertisement, nor do they believe that the advertisement was racist, sexist, socially irresponsible or that it was of particular appeal to children or that it made gambling appear to be a normal part of life.
In regard to the advertisement, they said that it promoted Paddy Power and formed part of their new proposition for horse racing “Feel like a favourite” and the advertisement was the first in a series of adverts based on this new proposition. They said that the proposition was the result of more than six months’ work, research and testing and the objective was to use the well-known racing term of “being a favourite” and apply it to how they treat their own customers, offering them more than just betting, it was about the entire customer experience and entertainment.
They said that the advertisement featured a well-known married English couple, Peter and Abbey Crouch and that Peter (40 years old) was a renowned retired professional football player (Premier League and international) and Abbey (35 years old) was a model and winner of reality TV show Strictly Come Dancing. They said that they were in a long-standing marriage, have four children and have appeared together on the BBC show “Save our Summer”. They said that since his retirement, Peter has focused on family life and has also worked with the BBC hosting a podcast with an adult audience and was a Paddy Power ambassador since 2020, starring in several campaigns for them, including two TV adverts to date and a series of social media films centred on horse racing. They said he was a well-liked person in the public domain, known for his humour, charm, friendly and self-deprecating personality and that previous advertisements they have run using Peter have scored significantly higher than usual for their recognition and likability benchmarks and that Abbey has participated in promotional work for them alongside Peter, with her cameos being exceptionally well received, with Peter acknowledging that she had stolen the show on each occasion and both have spoken positively about filming the advertisement.
The advertisers said that the advertisement had complied with the requirements set out in the 2019 Gambling Industry Code for Socially Responsible Advertising, had contained a prominent responsible gambling message, had included information in respect of Ireland’s addiction and problem gambling support services, GambleCare and contained an 18+message. They said that their legal and marketing teams were cognisant of their obligations under the ASAI Code and worked closely with their agency to ensure the underlying message and tone of the advertisement was compliant with the Code (and the BAI Code) while at the same time meeting the objectives of the marketing brief. They said that the script had been approved without need for edit by broadcasters in both Ireland and the UK and that they had taken particular care to ensure that the house and clothes featured did not glamourise gambling and that both had been selected for a neutral look. They said that the advertisement had been scheduled in full compliance with the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland’s (BAI) scheduling Code and the advertisement had not been directed at those under 18 years through the selection of media, by context or had been placed in or through media intended for children. They said that they had gone further than the Irish requirements and had removed all spots before midday and in or around any primetime broadcast shows which had a family audience to ensure the advertisement did not accidentally end up being viewed by younger viewers. They also said that 9% of their total spots aired between 12-6pm and that these were delivered in news and sports programmes in and around Cheltenham and the Six Nations coverage.
They also said that the advertisement had not featured any person of particular appeal to children or anyone who was or appeared to be under 25. They said they did not use themes or content associated with youth culture such as music, video games, fashion, language and/or other cultural references and that was 40 years old, had retired three years ago and did not have a significant profile among under-18s. They did not consider that the feature of any of the personalities in the advertisement had suggested that gambling could enhance personal qualities or improve self-image, and that as the advertisement was a clear parody, they wholly refuted that the tongue in cheek portrayal of Peter as a favourite racehorse could have been realistically interpreted as improving self-image, self-esteem or was a way to gain control, superiority, recognition or admiration. They said that they had not portrayed, condoned or encouraged gambling behaviour that could lead to financial, social or emotional harm and that they had taken particular care to ensure that the house and clothes featured did not glamourise gambling.
The advertisers said that the advertisement had been created and was intended to be a sharp-witted, cheeky, self-deprecating, parodical take on racing and how racing commentators’ comment on horses in the lead up to Cheltenham. They had used racing terminology and racing commentary throughout, alongside jovial banter between Peter and Abbey and it had been written in consultation with industry experts such as Ruby Walsh, and with the Jockey Club. They said that they celebrated the traits that had made Peter the incredible footballer and person he is, using racing terminology such as “attractive head”, “turn of foot”, “20 hands”, “feature at stud”, “banker” and applied them to Peter. They said that these features have been of benefit to Peter throughout his sporting career; his height, his awkwardness, his ability to jump high etc and that he was fully onboard with the script.
The advertisers said that the advertisement had also featured Matt Chapman (39 years old) a well-known, award-winning horse racing reporter and presenter and racing pundit and Sky Sports Racing presenter, Gina Bryce (38 years old). They said that they were both specifically chosen to highlight the parodic nature of the advertisement due to their known ties with racing punditry and their self-deprecating personalities. They also said that Cheltenham’s most successful jockey of all time and Paddy Power ambassador Ruby Walsh (41 years old), made a one liner cameo ‘poking’ at the good-natured sporting rivalry between Ireland and England in respect of Cheltenham.
The advertisers said that it was a well-known fact that Peter and Abbey Crouch were a well-known married couple in the public domain in Ireland and England which they considered was relevant to the tone and context of the advertisement, as they considered that it appeared from at least one of the complaints that the complainant was not aware of the fact they are married and/or who they are. They said that the context and talent featured, together with the advertisement’s tone and delivery, was crucial to ensure the parodical take on racing came across as tongue in cheek, fun and humorous.
They said that before production of the advertisements, they tested the concept, approach, and the script on four consumer research groups for feedback on concept, credibility and sensitivities among two groups from Ireland and two from the UK, one encompassing football, mass market fans who bet on horse racing festivals (aged 30-55) and another on horse racing fans only (aged 30-55), with all groups using a mix of Paddy Power customers and customers of their competitors. They said that the response was overwhelmingly positive in that the scripts tested incredibly well, with no concerns raised on any of the grounds of the complaints received. They said that the “Feel like a favourite” script scored 9/10 on average and the tagline resonated strongly with everyone because it was upbeat, positive, and used known racing language.
The advertisers said that the context of the advertisement and delivery by the talent featured was crucial and that they had gone to great lengths to ensure it came across as tongue in cheek humorous as opposed to offensive or discriminatory. In the advertisement, they said that Peter was shown preparing to watch the Cheltenham Festival at home, while Matt and Gina comment in the background as if they were assessing him as a favourite horse ahead of a big race. They said that Matt and Gina’s commentary was used to highlight the parodic nature of the advertisement, due to their known ties with racing and their self-deprecating personalities. The start of the advertisement featured Peter in bed waggling his huge feet watching racing, with his wife Abbey then throwing him his ‘lucky pants’, which were used to reference the lucky pants which Abbey bought for Peter when he was on a notorious scoring drought that Peter himself wrote about in his autobiography. They said that Gina commented on his height and his head as Peter’s height of 6 feet 7 inches was a well-worn subject of public comment and Peter regularly poked fun at his own height. Later, Peter was shown flicking through a variety of football shirts in his wardrobe with Matt’s comment (“he’s moved stables a lot”) being a reference to his having played for 12 different teams and Matt and Gina discuss whether he will feature at stud and comment on his (unlikely) suitability for breeding. They said that when this line is delivered by Gina, Peter looks directly to camera and at the viewer, known as “breaking the fourth wall” and that in doing this he explicitly acknowledges the commentary team is there and that he can hear them. They referred to the facial expression used by Peter for this line where he raises an eyebrow and said that the line and tone are delivered with humour and are a nod to the context of horse racing and to the rearing of racehorses, which are bred for the purpose of performance and winning. They said that the use of these words was appropriate in the context of this and Peter being a “race favourite”. They said that if this was misconstrued as being directed at Peter personally then they respectfully submit the fact that Peter is a well-known and universally liked person in the public eye, married to a model and a father of four further reiterating the parodic nature of the line.
The advertisers said that they had reviewed and applied the Advertising Standards Authority’s (ASA) recent guidance note on depicting gender stereotypes to ensure that no examples formed part of the advertisement, given the use of humour or banter was unlikely to mitigate against the types of harm or offence identified in that guidance. They said that mild innuendo was acceptable, and, in this regard, they referred to previous ASA decisions which they believed contained parallels and guidance relevant to the complaints. They said that while some might consider that the advertisement was distasteful, the innuendo was light-hearted and unlikely to cause grave or widespread offence, the advertisement was not sexualised, and Peter was fully clothed throughout, appeared confident, and was clearly in on the joke and in control.
They said that the advertisement had been extremely popular with both British and Irish citizens as demonstrated by the response they received on social media and in the press. They said that the advertisement accrued 64,900 views on their Facebook page, and it had brought in 930 engagements (made up of 707 reactions and 223 comments) and of those reactions, only one could be categorised as negative with a user replying using the angry face. They said that on Twitter, the video accrued 489,000 views, 131 retweets and 1,694 likes and that a handful of comments were negative towards the betting industry generally. They also said that the advertisement attracted 96.04% positive interaction on YouTube which was above the average of other popular previous Paddy Power adverts and was also above the average positive interaction on Despacito, the most watched YouTube video in history. They said that the majority of social media comments focussed on Peter himself, his performance, Abbey’s performance with some commenting on the strength of their marketing team and campaigns, therefore, they believed it could be said that their followers viewed the advertisement as self-deprecating and light-hearted banter.
The advertisers said that a “banker” was a well-known betting term for a sure thing and simply meant a good bet. They said that the commentators, Matt and Gina, discussed Peter being the favourite, with Cheltenham’s most successful jockey of all time Ruby Walsh, reiterating the tongue in cheek tone in a cameo remarking “even the Irish will back this English banker”. They said that this was a nod to Irish punters generally backing Irish horses at Cheltenham and was an amiable dig at the renowned, good-natured sporting rivalry between Irish and English when it comes to Cheltenham. They said that the term “banker” was a well-worn racing term for a sure thing, and it was used by Ruby in this context and in the context of sporting rivalry between the Irish and English at Cheltenham. They said that it alluded to Irish punters being patriotic when it comes to Cheltenham and English horses not having as great a track record when compared to the successes of Irish horses at Cheltenham, based on evidence of Prestbury Cup victories of Ireland beating England for the most winners at Cheltenham in previous years. They said that each year at Cheltenham, one of the ongoing sub-plots of the event was whether more winning horses would be trained by Irish or English stables and that Cheltenham’s own organisers, The Jockey Club, run a friendly competition on this matter each year, known as the Prestbury Cup, a much sought over accolade that celebrated the good-natured racing competition between both Ireland and England. They said that the cup was awarded to the country with the most winners at the end of the Festival and that they sponsored the Prestbury Cup in recent years and had informed the campaign brief. They said that the line had been written in consultation with Ruby Walsh, with the word “banker” being used as it was more credible with racing fans.
Complaints Not Upheld
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint and the advertisers’ response.
Issue 1 – Not Upheld:
The Complaints Committee noted the concerns raised by the complainant and the steps taken by the advertiser regarding the content and placement of the advertisement. While the Committee noted that the advertisement featured a man getting ready to watch Cheltenham at home, he was only shown using the advertisers’ app at the end of the advertisement. The Committee also noted that the style of advertising used by the advertisers in this case was in line with their normal practice of a tongue-in-cheek style content. On examining the advertisement against the Code, the Committee did not consider that it was in breach of the Code on the grounds raised in the complaint.
Issue 2 – Not Upheld:
The Committee noted that the theme of the advertisement was centred around horseracing and the preparation of the main character getting ready to watch the racing at home and that the comparison of the man’s features to a racehorse was made given the ‘feel like a favourite’ tagline. The Committee noted that the style and content had been intended to be a ‘take’ on horseracing and the commentary on horseracing. The Committee also noted that the advertisement had featured a well-known married couple and that the husband was famous for his stature and that the inclusion of his wife throwing a pair of underpants at him, was a reference to a real-life incidence that was publicised by the couple themselves. While the Committee appreciated the concerns raised by the complainants, the considered that the content of the advertisement had been set in a tongue-in-cheek manner, with the main character clearly being in on the ‘joke’. Taking account of the delivery, style and tone of the advertisement, the Committee did not consider that the advertising was in breach of the Code on the grounds raised by the complainants.
Issue 3 – Not Upheld:
The Complaints Committee noted that the complainants all appeared to interpret the word ‘Banker’ as a derogatory and suggestive term and that by stating that “Even the Irish would back this English banker”, it was being used in a racist manner. The Committee noted that the advertisers had consulted with industry personnel such as the Jockey Club and the jockey who delivered the line and that the term ‘Banker’ in racing terms meant a ‘favourite’ or a ‘sure thing’. Given that the theme of the advertisement was to ‘feel like a favourite’ and the main character was being put forward as a ‘favourite’ and taking account of the meaning of the word in racing terminology, the Committee did not consider that the word was being used in the derogatory sense and had simply been used to refer to the character as being the ‘favourite’. In the circumstances, the Committee did not consider that the advertising was in breach of the Code on the grounds raised by the complainants.
No further action required.