Sky Bet tweet featuring Gary Neville banned over appeal to under-18s

Neville’s large social media following of under 18s meant his appearance in a gambling ad broke rules, the Advertising Standards Authority found.

A tweet for Sky Bet featuring Gary Neville has been banned after a watchdog found the former footballer’s strong appeal among under-18s broke gambling ad rules.

The promoted tweet on February 9 contained an embedded video clip from The Overlap football podcast, which showed Neville discussing which team might win the Premier League.

The Sky Bet logo appeared intermittently throughout the video and text at the end stated: “Brought to you by Sky Bet.”

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) investigated whether the ad included an individual who was likely to be of strong appeal to under-18s, and therefore breached the advertising code.

Gary Neville enjoyed a successful career with Manchester United / Credit: Martin Rickett/PA

Sky Bet said they “firmly believed” that Neville did not hold strong appeal to under-18s, while The Overlap, a YouTube series sponsored by Sky Bet and produced by Neville, was “distinctly adult in tone and did not feature any content of a childish nature”.

They acknowledged that Neville was well known for his time at Premier League club Manchester United, where he was one of the “Class of 92” team which won the FA Youth Cup in 1992 and went on to form the basis of Manchester United’s highly successful senior team.

However they pointed out that 1992 was more than 30 years ago and more than a decade before today’s 18-year-olds were born, while his professional playing career ended in 2011, when today’s 18-year-olds would have been five or six years old.

As of March 2023, Neville had 5,504,262 Twitter/X followers, of which 1% were aged 13 to 17, as were 5% of his 1.6 million Instagram followers.

Twitter/X believed the ad did not breach any of their current policies and said they had not received any complaints in relation to it.

The ASA said the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising 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 media profile.

While he did not have active public personal accounts on YouTube, Twitch or Snapchat, he did post regularly on TikTok, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter/X.

Although figures for under-18 followers on TikTok and Facebook were not available, of his 1.6 million Instagram followers, 5% were registered as under 18, which amounted to 80,000 users, while he had more than 55,000 under 18 followers on Twitter/X.

The ASA said: “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.”

It concluded that the ad was irresponsible, adding: “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.”

A spokesman for Flutter, the parent company to Sky Bet, 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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