Read Paddy Power’s ASA rebuttal that said Peter Crouch is not aspirational to kids
Bet-maker’s 1,500-word response to Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) case reveals the challenge of regulating which stars appeal to kids.
Peter Crouch Christmas ad starring Peter Crouch
Two months after new gambling regulation was introduced to prohibit gambling brands from using talent that appeals to under-18s, the Advertising Standards Authority received complaints about Paddy Power’s Peter Crouch Christmas ad.
It’s one of the first rulings related to the new regulation and highlighted the challenge both brands and regulators will face in judging what constitutes a rule-breaking ad.
To argue its case, Paddy Power submitted a lengthy response to the investigation where it used Crouch’s less successful end to his football career as its primary defence. For context, a typical advertiser’s response to an ASA ruling ranges from 200-500 words.
The bet-maker spent a good deal of time detailing Crouch’s football career after leaving the England squad and how this impacted his notoriety among younger demographics. It noted his time playing for Stoke City, who was relegated to the championship, how he spent more time as a substitute than on the pitch and how Bromley was not a popular team outside of the local area.
The response included 200 words dedicated to proving how none of the elements related to Christmas featured in the ads appealed to children. According to Paddy Power, knitted jumpers, carol singers, “muted” decorations and dimly lit lights were all elements of Christmas only old people liked.
Paddy Power’s full response
Paddy Power said Peter Crouch’s professional career as a footballer ended in 2019 and this could not be described as a ‘recent’ retirement. Paddy Power referred to the CAP and BCAP guidance for gambling and lottery advertising: protecting under-18s, which stated that long-retired footballers who were now known for punditry were of low risk of strong appeal to children.
Paddy Power said that although Peter Crouch made a number of appearances for the England national team, the last of those were in 2010. Given the considerable time that had elapsed, they did not believe it would be reasonable to deduce that his international career had retained residual appeal to children in 2022.
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Paddy Power believed Peter Crouch was more widely recognised as a football pundit and entertainer than as a former Premier League footballer. At the time the ads were shown, Peter Crouch was 41. Paddy Power believed Peter Crouch’s media profile was consistent with that of a 41-year-old man and was not likely to be aspirational to under-18s in any way.
In terms of his post-international footballing career, from 2011 until his retirement, Peter Crouch played for Stoke City or Burnley. These were not large clubs with significant national or international supporter bases, or which were likely to have a large following of young people outside of their local area. He made six appearances for Burnley in the Premier League in the final year of his career, all of which were as a substitute. Until 2021, he held the record for the highest number of substitute appearances in the Premier League and 2014 was the last season he made more starting appearances than substitute appearances. As a result, he spent significantly less time on the pitch than many of his comparable peers, which further reduced the likelihood of his appeal to children, when the ads were broadcast, as a result of his playing career. When he played at Stoke City, the club was relegated from the Premier League in his penultimate year there and, as such, he spent a period playing in the Championship before signing for Burnley. Therefore, his very limited number of appearances for Burnley, the number of substitution appearances he made and Stoke City’s relegation to a lower league at the end of his career there, reduced his notoriety as a Premier League footballer to children and young people at the time the ads were broadcast.
Peter Crouch did not have public accounts on TikTok, Facebook or Twitch at the time the ads were broadcast, and his Instagram account had not been updated since 2014. He did have a public account on Twitter that, at the time the ads were seen, had almost 1.5 million followers. The demographic data from September to December 2022 showed that 0.46% of his followers were aged 13-17 years. Other data showed that the top topics his followers were interested in were markedly adult themes, and included: domestic and US politics, business, finance, technology and government institutions. Paddy Power believed that his limited profile on social media reduced his appeal to children by default.
Paddy Power said they also considered the audience demographic of the TV programmes Peter Crouch was predominantly known for. He appeared as a panellist for series two of The Masked Dancer. Paddy Power provided Broadcaster’s Audience Research Board (BARB) data which Paddy Power said showed that the programme was of more appeal to an older demographic than a younger one. Paddy Power provided the audience index status of the programme which they believe demonstrated that the programme would not have been categorised as being ‘likely to appeal to children’. Paddy Power understood that the show was intended to appeal to a broad range of ages and demographics and therefore its panel of judges and featured contestants were carefully selected to appeal to a range of people. Paddy Power did not believe that watching a TV programme which had a large and diverse cast denoted a specific interest in Peter Crouch, nor lead to an increase in his appeal to children.
Peter Crouch was a football pundit for BT Sport, which was a subscription-only paid service. They did not believe that detailed pundit-based discussions around tactics and team performance were of strong appeal to children. Paddy Power provided BARB data that they believed supported that this was the case.
Peter Crouch was featured in the grass-roots football documentary series Save Our Beautiful Game, which covered issues related, in a serious and adult tone, to the financial struggle to keep a lower league club alive. The show was shown on Discovery+ and Amazon Prime, both of which were subscription-only services.
Peter Crouch had also appeared in his own TV shows in 2020 and 2021, Peter Crouch: Save Our Summer and Crouchy’s Year-Late Euros: Live, respectively. Both shows were broadcast after the watershed and were targeted at an adult audience. They provided BARB data that they believed supported that was the case.
Peter Crouch also hosted the podcast That Peter Crouch Podcast. Paddy Power provided demographic data of the podcasts’ listeners which they believed supported that it had a distinctly low appeal to children. The podcast had an Instagram and YouTube account and the demographic data for those showed that 1.5% of the podcast’s Instagram followers in the previous 30 days were aged between 13 and 17 years and that 0.1% of people who had engaged with the podcast’s YouTube channel in the previous 28 days were aged between 13 and 17 years.
Paddy Power also reviewed Peter Crouch’s endorsements. He had partnerships with Ted Baker, L’Oreal and Carphone Warehouse. However, they believed those were all targeted at adults. In summer of 2022, Peter Crouch launched an alcoholic drink with Brewdog. They believed that further demonstrated he had an overwhelmingly adult commercial appeal.
He has also published a range of autobiographical-style books, all of which were targeted at an adult audience and was a columnist for the Daily Mail, a newspaper that was targeted at adults.
Commenting on the World Cup and Christmas themes in the ad, they said that in 2022, for the first time, the World Cup was set across the Christmas period. The voice-over in the ads placed them within that context from the outset. The central theme of the ads was the World Cup rather than Christmas and the purpose of the ads was to advertise Paddy Power’s offer of a ‘completely free Bet Builder on all England Games’ in the World Cup.
Paddy Power did not believe that the concept of Christmas in and of itself was likely to be of strong appeal to children. Paddy Power took care to ensure the ads only referred to aspects of Christmas that were of strong appeal to adults. The carol singers depicted were all obviously adults and the organist was an older woman. They sang a well-known football chant which was popular with an older demographic of football fan. Although the ad showed a Christmas tree, it was placed in the background of the shot rather than being prominently positioned. It was decorated in a muted fashion and not in a bright and colourful manner that was likely to appeal to children. Similarly, the Christmas lights were deliberately dimmed rather than being bright and colourful. The ads featured a pub setting, which was a context that was unlikely to appeal to children. The ads depicted Christmas tropes, which they believed resonated with adults, such as ugly knitted Christmas wear. They did not depict any of the features of Christmas generally associated with children or young people, such as Christmas stockings, new toys or leaving food out for Santa Claus. The ad carefully weaved adult concepts of Christmas with famous sporting moments which were only likely to be recognised by adults, either because they were adult in tone or referred to famous historical footballing moments. The footballing scene depicted in lights took place at the World Cup final in 2006.
Paddy Power did not believe that the Christmas context of the ads made Peter Crouch more likely to appeal to under-18s.
Clearcast said Paddy Power provided them with a list of Peter Crouch’s media activities, endorsement, and former and current projects, and they were assured that all projects were aimed at an adult market.
They endorsed Paddy Power’s comments that both Peter Crouch’s own social media demographics, and that of his podcasts, demonstrated that he had low appeal to under-18s and that children only made up a small minority of the audiences of the shows that he featured in, including The Masked Dancer. They also endorsed Paddy Power’s comments that the ads did not conflate Christmas and festive activities with youth appeal, and particularly highlighted that the ads were in line with previously broadcast betting ads that featured Christmas iconography.
They were satisfied that Peter Crouch and the Christmas setting did not have strong appeal to under-18s or youth culture, and therefore the ads complied with the Code.