Paddy Power could face censure as ASA investigates ‘racist’ Mayweather ad

Nine people have complained that the ad, which advises punters to ‘Always Bet on Black’, is racist and therefore likely to cause offence.

Paddy Power risks having some of its ads subject to pre-vetting sanction by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) if an investigation into a “racist” press ad it ran last week to promote the Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor fight is found to have caused serious or widespread offence.

The ad regulator has received nine complaints about the ad, with complainants questioning if it is “racist and offensive”. People have mainly taken issue with the wording of the press ad, which appeared in the Evening Standard and Metro, that read ‘Always Bet on Black’ alongside a picture of Mayweather.

There were a further five complaints about the same ad appearing on Twitter and Paddy Power’s website, but because the company is based outside Ireland it does not come under the ASA’s remit. Those complaints have been forwarded to ASA Ireland.

Paddy Power has been in trouble with the ad regulator before, most notably in 2015 when an Oscar Pistorious ad that offered people “money back if he walks” was the most complained about ad that year. It has also been investigated for ads about Liverpool FC, a TV ad that featured the Fonejacker star and ‘Complaints Line’ ad that was run around the Cheltenham Festival in 2015.

READ MORE: Paddy Power Pistorius ad ‘brings advertising into disrepute’

Many of its most controversial are one-off campaigns around a particular event, such as the Mayweather/McGregor fight, meaning a ban has little impact.

However, brands that repeatedly create campaigns that prompt serious or widespread offence or ignore precedents set in previous rulings can be subject to pre-vetting sanction. This means that before a media owner can accept the ad the advertiser has to get approval from the ASA’s copy advice team.

Previously, FCUK has been subject to such action after a succession of ads that used ‘fcuk’ as an obvious substitute for fuck. The ASA has also imposed the sanction on Benetton in the past.

Marketing Week understands that if the ASA finds Paddy Power has caused serious offence with this campaign it could be heading towards the pre-vetting sanction. But it is unlikely the regulator would pre-vet all its ads, instead establishing parameters over what kind of creative needs to be pre-approved, for example ads that feature depictions of or references to BAME people.

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