The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned a Sporting Index World Cup print ad, labeling it “seriously offensive” and slamming it for linking gambling to sexual prowess. The offending ad featured an image of Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer statue that had been altered to show Christ holding a bottle of champagne with a bikini-clad woman draped around him. The words “There’s a more exciting side to Brazil” appeared at the bottom of the page, while additional text offered £500 in free bets.
While Paddy Power had its own way with the image at the Euro 2012 event, the ASA was busy launching an investigation after receiving 25 complaints about the ad, which appeared in the City AM and Racing Post newspapers. One of the complainants was the Christian organization Evangelical Alliance, which claimed that the ad was likely to cause widespread offense.
Link to Sexual Aptitude
In its defense, Sporting Index said that the imagery had been chosen because it represents Rio de Janeiro and not because of its religious significance, and added that it had been digitally altered in a “light-hearted, humorous and cartoon-like way,” that was deigned to underline Rio’s reputation as a “city of fun.”
To the charge that the ad linked gambling to sexual success, Sporting Index reemphasized its tongue-in-cheek nature and highlighted that fact that previous ASA rulings had acknowledged that it was possible to have attractive people in gambling ads without necessarily establishing a link to sexuality per se.
However, the ASA disagreed on all counts and ruled that the ads breached CAP Code rule 4.1, which relates to offensive advertising, as well as rule 16.3.8, on gambling, which bans the link between gambling and sexual success. Gambling advertising in the UK is heavily regulated by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, as per the Gambling Act 2005, and may not contain content that is deemed to be socially irresponsible. Regulation 16.3.8 states that advertising may not “link gambling to seduction, sexual success or enhanced attractiveness.”
Sounds just like Vegas. (Yes, we’re kidding. Standards of advertising offensiveness are virtually non-existent across the pond in Sin City.)
“We considered that general references to the statue in order to highlight the location were unlikely to cause offense because it would be clear in what context the image was intended to be viewed,” the ASA explained in its ruling. “Nonetheless, we considered that a depiction of Jesus with his arm around a largely undressed woman, holding a champagne bottle and apparently celebrating a gambling win was likely to cause offense to a significant number of Christians, regardless of this humorous intention or references to Rio de Janeiro and the World Cup, because it depicted the person of Jesus in a context at odds with commonly held beliefs about the nature of Christ.”
The ASA also said that the link between gambling and sexual success was clearly established due to the implication that the statue was celebrating a gambling win with the woman, and because of the proximity of its hand to the woman’s bottom, which, it said, implied sexual contact.
Well, it’s hard to argue with that, isn’t it?
Sporting Index has been warned that it may not use the ad again in its current form and that it should avoid using imagery in the future that is likely to cause “serious or widespread offense.”