The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has censured three Tweets by Betfred which it found breached rules and were likely to to appeal to under-18s.
After investigating the posts, shared in March and April and promoting a fight, the watchdog said boxer Anthony Joshua was likely to strongly appeal to under-18s – which is forbidden under new gambling ad rules brought in last year, and covering ads on UK TV, radio and online.
The new guidelines state that companies cannot appeal to under-18s “by reflecting or being associated with youth culture”.
Betfred’s tweets featured videos of Joshua discussing his diet, his preparation routine and his pre-fight mentality before his bout with Jermaine Franklin.
The company argued boxing is an “adult-orientated sport” because its late-night matches are mostly streamed pay-per-view and can only be bought by over-18s.
It also said the three tweets weren’t advertising but were “editorial” in nature.
The Manchester-based bookies admitted that Joshua is hugely popular across social media, with 29.3m followers worldwide, but argued they were “overwhelmingly adult”.
However, the ASA found about a million of Joshua’s 15.7m Instagram followers were registered as under-18, as well as 82,000 of his followers on Snapchat.
Betfred disagreed with the ASA’s finding and demanded an independent review.
It said in a statement: “Betfred disagrees with this ASA Council Ruling; it believes that CAP Guidance was followed at all times.
Before posting three interviews with Anthony Joshua on our age-gated Twitter/X platform ahead of sponsoring his fight in April of this year, we undertook an analysis in line with guidance provided by the ASA, so that we could be satisfied that he did not have a strong appeal to under-18s.
We established that of his world-wide social media following, just 3.85% were under-18. This formed an important part of our decision-making process, especially as we had previously been advised by the ASA in a training webinar that a 5% threshold (of under-18 followers on social media) could be relied upon as a factor tending to indicate that the individual concerned did not have a strong appeal to under-18s.
We also took into account CAP Guidance, which clearly states that boxing is an adult-orientated sport.
Betfred is committed to ensuring that our marketing does not have a strong appeal to under-18s, and we are firmly of the view that the posting of these interviews with Anthony Joshua in no way undermined that commitment.
It should also be remembered that the ASA did not receive a single complaint from a member of the public about our association with Anthony Joshua in this respect.
We will be seeking an independent review of this unjust decision.”