Posted: 8 August, 2014 in ASA Advert Censor
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sporting index advert
A press ad for Sporting Index, seen in City AM and the Racing Post, featured an image of the Christ the Redeemer statue that had been digitally manipulated to show Jesus with his right arm around a bikini-clad woman, his hand resting just above her bottom, and a bottle of champagne in his left hand. The statue’s face had also been altered from a solemn expression to a smile. A large caption at the bottom of the image stated There’s a more exciting side to Brazil and a roundel next to the statue’s head stated £ 500 IN FREE BETS* . Further text stated World Cup excitement guaranteed .The ASA received 25 complaints about the ad:

  1. All the complainants, including the Evangelical Alliance, challenged whether the ad was likely to cause serious or widespread offence. Many of the complainants mentioned the woman and the bottle of champagne in particular.
  2. The ASA challenged whether the ad linked gambling with sexual success.

ASA Assessment: Complaints upheld

1. Upheld

The ASA acknowledged that the statue of Christ the Redeemer was likely to be strongly evocative of Brazil in general and Rio de Janeiro in particular, and that as a famous landmark it was often used to publicise these destinations. However, we noted that, despite this secular use, it was still a depiction of Jesus and was likely to carry a large degree of religious significance for Christians in particular, and that care should therefore be taken over its use. We considered that general references to the statue in order to highlight the location were unlikely to cause offence because it would be clear in what context the image was intended to be viewed. We also appreciated that the imagery was intended to be a tongue-in-cheek and light-hearted reference to Rio de Janeiro’s beach and Carnival culture. Nonetheless, we considered that a depiction of Jesus with his arm around a largely undressed woman, holding a champagne bottle and apparently celebrating a gambling win was likely to cause offence to a significant number of Christians, regardless of this humorous intention or references to Rio de Janeiro and the World Cup, because it depicted the person of Jesus in a context at odds with commonly held beliefs about the nature of Christ. We therefore concluded that the ad was likely to cause serious offence to some readers.

2. Upheld

The ASA acknowledged that the inclusion of an attractive person in an ad for gambling might not in itself automatically imply a link between gambling and sexual success, and understood Sporting Index’s view that the woman was intended to represent the culture of Rio de Janeiro. However, we considered that the ad strongly implied that the statue depicted a figure celebrating a gambling win and that the woman constituted part of this celebration. We noted that the figure’s hand was placed just above the woman’s bottom and that she was turned partly towards him, and considered that this pose implied a degree of flirtatiousness and sexual contact regardless of whether the figures were presented in a cartoon-like manner. We understood that the woman’s attire was intended to be a reference to Brazilian beaches and therefore incidental to the message of the ad, but considered that this was not clear from the context of the ad and that the woman’s clothing reinforced the implication of sexual contact with the other figure. In light of these factors we concluded that the ad breached the Code by linking gambling with sexual success.

The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Sporting Index Ltd to ensure that future ads would not link gambling to sexual success or be likely to cause serious or widespread offence.

Comment: With All Due Respect

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Dr Dave Landrum, director of advocacy of the Evangelical Alliance, said:

We are grateful that the Advertising Standards Authority has upheld the Alliance’s view on behalf of Christians everywhere.

This advertisement was in poor taste and clearly likely to cause offence. Even so, the expressions of incredulity from City AM and Sporting Index at the complaints illustrate a patent failure to grasp why such mockery and disfigurement of the person of Christ should be deemed offensive at all.

Such religious illiteracy and lack of respect for faith communities in the UK is concerning.


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