FC Barcelona becomes latest club to be sanctioned for NFT ads
The ASA continues its crypto crackdown with action against three advertisers.
FC Barcelona Christmas ad 2020
FC Barcelona has become the latest football club to face an Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) non-fungible token (NFT) ad ban.
The advertising regulator acted against the football club for a paid Google search result of an NFT sold at Sotheby’s. It featured the text “July 29, 2022 – NFT Johan Cruyff. Don’t miss the live auction. The first NFT Masterpiece of FC Barcelona. Premiere July 29th. Johan Cruyff’s ’impossible goal’ in 1973. Immortalized and offered as an exclusive NFT.”
The ASA challenged whether the ad was misleading because it didn’t make clear the risks of NFTs, or that there would be fees involved and restrictions on ownership rights.
Arsenal Football Club faced a similar sanction in 2021 for a set of ads promoting its crypto fan tokens. At the time the ASA said the ads trivialized the crypto and didn’t clearly state the risks.
In Barcelona’s defense, it claimed NFTs were not financial products so buying one shouldn’t be considered an investment and therefore exempt from financial rules. The club added that the terms and conditions were available on its website but that the character limit on the Google ad meant it was left out of the advertisement.
However, the ASA hit back saying that since NFTs were unregulated cryptoassets which are risky and complex, and customers needed enough information before making a purchase. And while Barcelona’s argument that NFTs are collectibles was acknowledged, the ASA said NFTs could also be bought, held and sold making them an investment.
Crypto crackdown continues
Along with Barcelona, the ASA acted against two other crypto ads this week as part of the regulator’s ongoing crackdown on crypto advertising.
The first was for the cryptocurrency trading platform Crypto.com for a Facebook ad which the ASA claimed failed to make clear the risks of NFT trading or that fees applied. Like FC Barcelona, Crypto.com rebuffed the idea that buying an NFT was an investment and added that the terms and conditions were available just excluded from the ad itself.
The NFT project Turtle United NFT was also sanctioned for a paid Facebook ad and then failed to respond to the investigation. The ASA said it was “concerned by Turtle United NFT’s lack of response and apparent disregard for the Code”.
In March the regulator told over 50 Crypto advertisers to change their ads.