Ad watchdog clears Sportsbet’s Ben Johnson Puntmas ad of ‘blasphemy’

The Ad Standards Board has cleared Sportbet’s ‘Puntmas’ ad, despite complaints accusing the commercial of being “blasphemous” and offensive in using a Christian celebration to promote gambling.

The ad, created by BMF, shows a group of men at the race track looking at Sportbet’s new app ‘The Fold’, with Johnson – who was used in the brand’s controversial “putting the ‘roid in Android” campaign – featured at the commercial’s end.

The voice over says “everyone’s on it hey Ben… it’s gold”.

One complaint to the ad watchdog stated “This is BLASPHEMY. Calling their racing crap Puntmas. Using Christmas images INCLUDING a donkey BLASPHEMY”.

“I am objecting and offended by the ad using a Christian celebration Christmas,” stated another complaint. “It belittles the Christian believe [sic]. (“Christmas” is a shortened form of “Christ’s mass”) For them to use it in a gambling ad reaches new lows in the gambling industry. And to use Christmas lyrics in the ad also belittles the true Christmas spirit.”

Other complaints believed the word ‘Puntmas’ sounded like another English word relating to the female anatomy and relates Christmas to gambling.

Sportsbet stood by its ad arguing all the complaints lacked foundation a the ad does not “identify or speak about any particular religion”.

“Instead, the Advertisements merely attempt to demonstrate in a light-hearted manner that the Spring Racing Carnival is like the Christmas of the racing year, as it is the highlight of the racing calendar with the most prestigious racing events. References to Christmas in this context is common parlance, such as ‘All your Christmases have come at once’ and ‘It’s like Christmas every day’”

“Although some viewers may not find the Advertisement as humorous as some others might (or at all), it certainly does not go so far as to ‘unjustly or prejudicially’ treat any religion, nor does the Advertisement ‘abusively disparage’ or ‘revile’ any religion,” Sportsbet stated in response to the complaints.

Despite Sportsbet’s infamous ‘putting roid in Android’ ad being banned in June, the Board dismissed the complaints stating most members of the community consider Christmas as “a cultural holiday more so than a religious one” and the use of the word ‘Puntmas’ “does not denigrate Christianity or Christians”.

“The Board considered that the use of this term in the manner depicted in the advertisement does not denigrate Christianity or Christians and would be seen by most people as a humorous play on words with no reflection on the beliefs underpinning the words,” the Board concluded.


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