The UK’s advertising regulator has told gambling operators to ensure brand ambassadors label social media content promoting their partners as marketing communication after upholding a complaint against Unibet.
A tweet from horseracing trainer and Unibet ambassador Nicky Henderson, in which he promoted his latest blog for the betting operator, was referred to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) last month. The tweet read: “We’re underway with the jumps and my exclusive @unibet blog is now ready to read …”
The complainant, who believed that Unibet had editorial control over the tweet, challenged whether it breached the CAP Code, particularly rule 2.1 that “marketing communications must be obviously identifiable as such”.
Unibet responded that it did not consider the tweet to be a marketing communication, a position shared by Henderson himself.
Revealing their relationship with brand ambassadors, Unibet conceded that under the terms of its contract with Henderson it has the right “to manage, with [Henderson’s] assistance, his social media activity throughout the term of the agreement”. The contract stated that Henderson was required to start a Twitter account that would be managed by Unibet on his behalf, though he would have the right to approve all tweets sent on that account.
However, Unibet argued that the contract was a generic document that they used for all their ambassadors and was not put into practise as Henderson already had a Twitter account. It added that it was “satisfied that Mr Henderson did not require direct assistance to fulfil his obligations they did not facilitate him in doing so”.
Despite Unibet’s argument that the tweet was not a marketing communication, the ASA upheld the complaint, as Henderson was contractually obliged to update his social media accounts and specifically to promote his Unibet blog.
“We considered that, because Unibet required Mr Henderson to post about his blog on social media they did have control over the content of tweets relating to the blog,” the ASA said in its ruling.
“We therefore considered that, the tweet, which contained a link to Mr Henderson’s blog, was a marketing communication and should have been obviously identifiable as such.”
The ASA ordered Unibet and Henderson to ensure that future marketing communications were obviously identifiable as such, “for example by using an identifier such as ‘#ad’”.
A tweet posted by Henderson on Tuesday which publicised his latest Unibet blog included the '#ad' hashtag.