AFL star’s Indian jockey ad banned by ASB as racist depiction of British Colonial rule

Former AFL star Jonathan Brown’s relationship with his Indian jockey in an ad for Ubet has been ruled discriminatory by the Ad Standards Board.

browny-jockey-tea The ad drew complaints from those who felt it was based on portrayals of 19th Century British colonial rule during which Indians were used as slaves and servants. SBS current affairs show The Feed described the resemblance to scenes from The British Raj as “uncanny”.

The online ad features the former AFL premiership player in a country house, labelled ‘Brownton Abbey’. In the ad, he calls for the Melbourne Cup to be a national holiday while the unnamed jockey works as his manservant, serving tea and acting as a a prop to an archery target.


One complaint to the ASB stated:

“The ad features racist imagery. It deliberately uses imagery of British colonialism and the subjugation of Indian people. Core to my complaint is that Jonathan Brown is followed around by a man of Indian descent who is dressed as a jockey and acting as his servant. Further, in several scenes he shows complete disregard for the safety of his employee (slave?) conveying an attitude that this person is not of the same worth as him.”

Another said:

“There is no doubt that this is a stereotypical and racist portrayal of Indians as servants, lackeys and even as property to be treated with disdain, arrogance and violence. This advertisement attempts to replicate scenes which show the oppression and mistreatment of Indians in an attempt to be humorous in order to sell the gambling industry. It is offensive along race lines.

A third stated:

“I was offended by the racist overtones in Brownie’s disrespect, disregard and blatant racial segregation and denigration in relationship to his brown skinned ‘jockey/servant’ who was portrayed as stupid, idiotic, worthless, voiceless and frankly as an object who could be toyed with, messed with, disregarded and ultimately disrespected. This portrayal of white monarchy and supremacy goes against the very grain of multi-culturalism in this country.”


Ubet defended the ad, telling the ASB that the ad was intended to be “humorous” and that the comparison to The Raj was “in the complainant’s mind”.

It argued that the jockey, ‘Fuad’, had appeared in another ad the previous year without complaint and that ethnicity had not been a factor in the casting. He had been cast because the actor needed to be short, rather than on his race, Ubet said.

Ubet also argued that the fact that the jockey could be seen playing Pokèmon Go in one scene demonstrated the ad was not set in colonial times. It said: “Any parallels drawn between that setting and racist depictions of Indians are purely circumstantial.”


However, the ASB ruled against Ubet, but revealed that the board was split on the decision.

It said: “The advertisement is styled to look like Downton Abbey, and Browny is waited upon by a dark-skinned jockey.

“The Board noted the element of humour in the advertisement and the British colonial theme to the advertisement. The Board noted that the advertisement does clearly suggest that the jockey character is a servant and considered that in the historical context the race of the jockey does reflect historical servitude and colonialism.

“The Board considered the advertisement was a depiction of British colonialism and considered the use of a jockey who appeared of Indian descent may be reflective of history.

“The minority of the Board felt that this reflection of history was showing that times have changed and that this behaviour is no longer acceptable.
A minority of the Board considered that the race of the jockey was not relevant to the advertisement, and that the subservient nature of the jockey was reflective of the royal theme and that the advertisement did not suggest that the jockey was discriminated against or vilified because of his race.

“The majority of the Board considered that there was no clear message in the advertisement that this behaviour is unacceptable and that the treatment of the jockey in the advertisement was unfair and unequal.”

It added: ” The majority of the Board noted that the character had no voice in the advertisement, was treated poorly by the main character and that the only scene which showed the jockey acting relaxed and happy was when he was alone.

“The majority of the Board considered that the jockey was not empowered and that he was not depicted as an equal to the other character. The majority of the Board in particular noted the scenes where the jockey is almost it by a croquet ball and shot with an arrow and considered that these scenes showed that the jockey is shown less-favourable treatment and that his life is expendable.

Ubet said that although it did not agree with the ruling, it had removed the ad from its YouTube account and social channels.

While the ad is no longer available, the 2015 version of the campaign, which also features both Browny and the jockey, is still online. Ubet’s creative agency of record is The Monkeys. However a spokesperson from the agency said the agency did not work on this campaign.

The 2015 ad:

As well as the ad resembling colonial India, the strategy – a campaigning Australia Day address – also bears an uncanny resemblance to Meat & Livestock Australia’s long running Australia Day ad series, featuring former Australian Rules footballer Sam Kekovich.


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