Marketing

“Blatantly sexist”: Sportsbet pulls ad after breaching ethics code

Matthew Elmas /

Sportsbet

A still from Sportsbet's "foolproof" campaign.

Gambling business Sportsbet has pulled a marketing campaign promoting its new iPhone application after the advertising watchdog found it was sexist.

Sportsbet had been running ads on TV and across social media featuring a blonde woman participating in a beauty pageant holding up the company’s new app and saying “I personally believe that apps such like as Sportsbet [sic] that make it easier for people to use because … Apps”.

A male host then raises his eyebrows and a voiceover states “the new iPhone app from Sportsbet, it’s foolproof” before a superimposed yellow box featuring the word “foolproof” appears over the women’s neck.

The campaign attracted myriad complaints, with a concerned Australian telling the Ad Standards Board it is “blatantly sexist”.

“How many Australian females need to be murdered in sexual violence attacks before broadcasters stop encouraging men to consider it the norm to ridicule and denigrate women,” a complainant said.

One in five (1.7 million) Australian women have experienced sexual violence since the age of 15, according to 2017 ABS figures.

The Ad Standards Board considered whether the campaign breached section 2.1 and 2.2 of advertising ethics standards. 

Section 2.1 prevents companies from portraying people or material in a way that discriminates against or vilifies a person or section of the community on account of gender, while section 2.2 prevents the use of sexual appeal in an exploitative way.

The Ad Standards Board concluded the advertisement breached section 2.1, but not 2.2.

“[The] advertisement conveys the overall impression that women who enter beauty pageants are unintelligent, which is a negative stereotype, and in the Panel’s view this incites ridicule of these women,” the board said.

It is not the first time Sportsbet has been pulled up for breaching the advertising code in respect to the depiction of women. Back in 2011, the company ran a depiction of former prime minister Julia Gillard lying across former Greens leader Bob Brown’s lap, suggesting she was about to be spanked.

The most recent complaint is the eighth separate occasion Sportsbet has been found to have breached advertising standards by the watchdog. 

There are no financial penalties for breaching the Advertising Code of Ethics, which is a self-regulatory code established by the advertising and marketing communications industry.

Another ad featuring in Sportsbet’s “foolproof” campaign features a woman waiting for a “Nigerian prince” at an airport. At the time of writing the advertisement remains published on Sportsbet’s Youtube page.

In the most recent case, Sportsbet defended its beauty pageant advertisement, arguing it did not breach advertising ethics standards because the beauty pageant ad was a joke.

“It merely attempts to use satire and humor [sic] to convey the message that Sportsbet’s new app is easy and simple to use,” the company said in its response to the complaint.

Sportsbet further argued “the issue of bad taste” doesn’t fall within the scope of the advertising code.

“Sportsbet regrets if the nature of the advertisement was misconstrued and acknowledges from reading the complaints that the intended humour in the advertisement was not to everyone’s taste,” the company said.

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Matthew Elmas

Matthew is the news editor at SmartCompany. You can contact him at [email protected].

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