Sky Bet tweet featuring Gary Neville banned and labelled 'irresponsible' by Advertising Standards Authority

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Watchdog ruled his presence in the ad meant it would appeal to under-18s.

An "irresponsible" tweet for a betting firm featuring Gary Neville has been banned. Watchdogs ruled the former Manchester United and England star's role as a Sky Sports pundit would make "strong appeal" to under-18s who are banned from gambling by law.

The Advertising Standards Authority ruling (ASA) forms part of wider work banning gambling ads which, under strengthened rules, are prohibited from being likely to be of strong appeal to youngsters.

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The promoted tweet for Sky Bet, posted on February 9 this year, contained an embedded video clip from Neville's The Overlap podcast. The video showed Neville discussing which team might win the Premier League.

Gary NevilleGary Neville
Gary Neville | Getty Images

The Sky Bet logo appeared intermittently throughout the video. On-screen text at the end stated, “brought to you by Sky Bet” and the BeGambleAware logo appeared after that. The ASA challenged whether the ad included an individual who was likely to be of strong appeal to those under 18 years of age.

Sky Bet said they had worked "extensively" with the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) to ensure their ads complied with legal requirements. The firm believed that Neville didn't hold strong appeal to under-18s.

They explained that The Overlap, a YouTube series sponsored by Sky Bet and produced by Neville, featured interviews with individuals from sporting, political and business backgrounds discussing contemporary sporting issues, with a focus on football. The firm said it was "distinctly adult" in tone and did not feature any content of a childish nature.

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Sky Bet acknowledged that Neville was noted as one of the “Class of 92” team went on to form the basis of United's successful senior team for over a decade. But they pointed out that 1992 was more than 30 years ago and over a decade before today’s 18-year-olds were even born.

Sky Bet said that at the time of the advert Neville had more than 5.5 million Twitter followers, of which just one per cent were aged 13 to 17. Assuming they were all UK-based, they claimed it equated to only 0.39 per cent of the UK’s total population of under-18s.

But the ASA found the ad to be in breach of the tougher new rules, introduced last October, stating they must not include a person or character whose example was likely to be followed by those aged under 18 years or who had strong appeal to those aged under 18.

An ASA spokesman said: "We 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.

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"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.

"We acknowledged that Gary Neville had achieved prominence as a Premier League and England football player; he had won eight Premier League and two Champions League titles during his long club career and had represented his country in three European Championships and two World Cups. However, he had retired from Premier League football in 2011 and had not played for England since 2007.

"We considered, therefore, that at the time the ad appeared he not would have been of strong appeal to children and young people due to his career as a footballer. We considered that he was now more likely to be widely recognised as a TV sports pundit.

"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. We therefore assessed the appeal that Mr Neville was likely to have to under-18s on that basis.

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"He also appeared as a pundit on Sky’s live coverage of Premier League football games, and we acknowledged that live Premier League games, along with live World Cup coverage, could be of strong appeal to under-18s. He did post regularly on TikTok, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter/X.

"Across his active social media accounts he had at least 135,000 followers who were aged under 18. The Guidance stated, '...a generally high social media following that attracts a significant absolute number of under 18 followers, as determined through quantitative or qualitative analysis, is likely to be considered an indicator of 'strong' appeal.'

"Although they made up a small proportion of his total Instagram and Twitter/X followers, we considered that over 135,000 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 that were under 18, he was of inherent strong appeal to under-18s.

"For that reason, we concluded that the ad was irresponsible and breached the Code."

He added: "The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Sky Bet not to include a person or character who had strong appeal to those under 18 years of age in their advertising in future."

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