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LeoVegas-owned sportsbook BetUK has been told by the UK’s Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) not to repeat an advertisement again which featured former footballer Adebayo Akinfenwa, due to its appeal to under-18s.

The radio ad for the operator in September 2023 saw Akinfenwa state he was a brand ambassador for the company. He promoted BetUK’s responsible gambling tools including deposit limits, reality checks and timeouts.

The ASA investigated the ad on the grounds of a complaint which said Akinfenwa may appeal to under-18s, and the body has subsequently ordered BetUK not to repeat the ad.

The ASA acknowledged BetUK’s argument that during his playing career, 41-year-old Akinfenwa never played in the Premier League – and so his appeal to under-18s was “low-risk.”

However, the ASA, referring to the B/CAP guidance, said that Akinfenwa was “likely” to have appeal to under-18s due to his social and media profiles.

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“The B/CAP guidance classed footballers at lower league and non-league clubs as ‘low risk,’ but also stated footballers from outside the topflight could be of ‘moderate risk’ on the basis of their social and other media profiles,” the ASA said in its ruling.

Akinfenwa initially rose to fame through the FIFA series of video games, where he was highlighted by YouTuber-turned-boxer KSI for his in-game strength attribute.

“While we acknowledged BetUK’s view that Mr Akinfenwa’s clothing range, BeastModeOn, had broad appeal and was not targeted at children, we considered the manner in which he was portrayed in the media and by which he had marketed himself would have led some football fans to view him as a cult hero in the game,” the UK’s advertising watchdog said.

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“We therefore considered that his media profile, alongside our view that he was unusually well known for a former lower league footballer, would have placed him in the ‘moderate risk’ category of the guidance.”

BetUK also argued that only eight percent of Akinfenwa’s followers on Instagram were under-18s and that the radio ad was played during a show which was likely to have an adult audience.

The operator added that 13% of his Snapchat followers were under 18.

The ASA, however, noted in its ruling that Akinfenwa therefore “had at least 157,000 followers who were under 18 years.”

The watchdog added that the true number was likely higher due to the unavailability of follower data for Facebook, X (formerly Twitter) and TikTok.

“Although his career as a lower league footballer and his media profile in isolation would have placed him in the ‘moderate risk’ category, we considered that because he had such large numbers of social media followers who were under 18 years due to his career and profile, Mr Akinfenwa would be placed in the ‘high risk’ category and was likely to be of strong appeal to under-18s,” the ASA concluded.

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