Communications Minister brands Sportsbet Ben Johnson ads ‘dumb’

Communications Minister Mitch Fifield has branded a campaign for Sportsbet starring disgraced Olympic drug cheat Ben Johnson “dumb”.

Speaking after appearing at the ACMA Australian Content Conversation conference in Sydney, Fifield said ACMA had already fielded complaints about the ad and was not investigating.

The ad, which launched over the weekend, has already prompted more than 50 complaints to the Advertising Standards Bureau.

“Look, I think it was a dumb ad, it was ill-advised,” Fifield told Mumbrella.

“There are complaints, I know, that have been lodged with ACMA who will undertake an investigation and complaints have also been lodged with the advertising standards bureau and we will also examine those.”

He said that advertisers needed to stay in step with community values.

“You have got to keep in mind community values and community expectations and as I say I just think that the ad was a really dumb idea.”

Sportsbet said it continues to stand behind the ad.

“Sportsbet have no plans to pull the adverts from air – we’ve received overwhelmingly positive support from the public and they see it for what it is, a tongue in cheek joke,” a spokesperson said.

“You only have to look at the comments on social media and news websites to see that the majority of Australian’s love this ad – in fact some say it’s the best on TV and it’s hard to disagree with them.”

Rising community concerns about the betting advertising on TV has prompted the government to include bans on betting ads during lives sporting events before 8.30pm.

The Sportsbet ad stars former Jamaican-born Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson, who was stripped of his 1988 Olympic 100 metre gold medal after failing a drug test.

Johnson talks about the betting agency’s app putting the “roid” into “android” and boasts about “cutting corners”.

The ad also features other sports cheat look-alikes including Lance Armstrong.


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