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A promoted tweet for Sky Bet featuring former footballer Gary Neville has been banned by the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for breaking rules on gambling advertising.

The tweet, posted on 9 February, contained an embedded video clip from The Overlap football podcast, a YouTube series sponsored by Sky Bet and produced by Neville.

The video showed Neville discussing which team might win the Premier League this season.

Sky Bet’s logo appeared throughout the video, which ended with text stating: “Brought to you by Sky Bet”.

The ASA ruled Neville was “likely to be of strong appeal to under-18s” and therefore breached the advertising code.

Sky Bet, however, disagreed and said it will be seeking an independent review of the case.

Sky Bet’s arguments

The company said the podcast was “distinctly adult in tone and did not feature any content of a childish nature”.

It also argued that Neville’s professional playing career had ended nearly 12 years ago, in 2011, when today’s 18-year-olds would have been just five or six years old.

Sky Bet added that Neville was now more widely recognisable as a football pundit, political commentator and successful businessman.

The firm also assessed his profile, including his social media profile, before publishing the tweet. 

According to Sky Bet, Neville had around 5.5 million Twitter/X followers as of March, of which 1% were aged 13 to 17.

Assuming the 1% were all UK-based, Sky Bet said that equated to just 0.39% of the UK’s total population of under-18s.

He also did not have active public personal accounts on YouTube or Twitch.

Moreover, the company added that Neville was 47 years old at the time the tweet appeared, and that his social media profile was consistent with his mature age.

ASA’s reasoning 

The ASA acknowledged that Neville was “now more likely to be widely recognised as a TV sports pundit” rather than a football player. 

However, it added that the guidelines “classed retired footballers who had moved into punditry as likely to be of ‘moderate risk’ of strong appeal to under-18s”.

The ASA therefore assessed the tweet on the basis of Neville’s social and other media profiles.

The regulator pointed out that although Neville didn’t have active public personal accounts on YouTube, Twitch, or Snapchat, he regularly posted on TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter/X.

While specific numbers for under-18 followers on TikTok and Facebook weren’t available, the ASA noted that of Neville’s 1.6 million Instagram followers, 5% were registered as under 18, totalling 80,000 users. 

In addition to his 55,000 under-18 followers on Twitter/X, the ASA concluded that he had a minimum of 135,000 social media followers who were under 18 years old.

The ASA further determined that this represented a substantial number in absolute terms, making Neville inherently appealing to the under-18 demographic.

The regulator instructed Sky Bet that the tweet in its present form should not be used again and cautioned Sky Bet against featuring individuals or characters with strong appeal to those under 18 years of age in their future advertising.

“Flawed process”

A spokesperson for Sky Bet parent company Flutter Entertainment said: “We fundamentally disagree with this decision and the flawed process which led to this outcome – it defies both precedent and common sense.

“The ASA did not receive a single complaint from the public or wider stakeholders about the social media post in question.

“We will be seeking an independent review of this case while we consider other options open to us.”

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