The tweets were posted on X – formerly known as Twitter – in March and April this year. Two tweets showed Anthony Joshua being interviewed by commentator Dom McGuinness and focused on aspects on preparing for upcoming fights. The third tweet featured Joshua talking about his mentality while fighting.
The complaint questioned whether Joshua would be of strong appeal to under-18s. Featuring an individual that is of strong appeal to under-18s in an ad is against the ASA’s CAP Code.
The ASA recently rapped Sky Bet for featuring Gary Neville in a promotional tweet, concluding that the football pundit would appeal to those under the age of 18. XLMedia also received a warning for featuring footballer Mason Mount in an ad for its affiliate Freebets.com, as Mount is under 25.
But William Hill escaped such a reckoning in August, when a complaint challenging whether the use of Robbie Savage in an ad would appeal to under-18s was dismissed.
BetFred fights back
In its response, BetFred said it had carried out a “thorough” investigation of Joshua and had concluded he was not of strong appeal to under-18s.
The operator said its social media channels are age-gated to those aged 18 and over. When it was not possible to age-gate, BetFred said its campaigns are targeted to those over 25.
BetFred argued that Joshua is a former champion boxer who is known “almost exclusively” for his achievements in sport. It added that he had not held a championship title of any sort since 2021. The operator said there is no evidence that Joshua – who is nearing the end of his career – is a “notable star”. This, it said, classifies him as having a low risk of appealing to children.
Looking at Joshua’s social media profiles, BetFred said 0% of his followers on X, TikTok and Facebook are registered as being between 13 and 17 years old. This was 5% for his Snapchat followers and 6.6% for Instagram. Overall, Joshua has 29.3 million followers worldwide.
ASA upholds complaint
However, this was refuted by the ASA. In its own assessment, it said that approximately 6.6% of Joshua’s Instagram followers were registered as under 18, equating to roughly 1 million users. On Snapchat, this was 5% and on YouTube this was 0.9%. The ASA said this adds up to an estimated 1.1 million users.
BetFred added that boxing is a sport aimed towards adults and that Joshua’s matches were usually shown late at night.
But the ASA upheld the initial complaint. It cited CAP guidance, which states that sports figures in adult-oriented sports who were “notable” and had a large social media profiling would be considered of moderate risk of appeal to under-18s.
The ASA agreed that live boxing matches generally take place late at night and that the number of children participating in boxing is low. However, based on his success and status as a celebrity, the ASA concluded that Joshua is considered a high-profile star in the sport.
“Although they made up a small proportion of his total followers, we considered that over 1.1 million followers aged under 18 was a significant number in absolute terms,” the ASA concluded. “We therefore considered that because he had such large numbers of social media followers who were under 18, Mr Joshua was of inherent strong appeal to under-18s.”