Sportsbet ad pulled after Ad Standards upholds racial vilification complaint

An ad for Sportsbet from its ‘Elite Average Games’ series has been pulled and altered after industry watchdog Ad Standards upheld a complaint about racial vilification.

In the original ad, contestants representing their countries participate in the ‘Bindi Walk’ event, and the complaint alleged Sportsbet gave the Kenyan participant a “mocking name”.

While the athlete from Kenya is on screen, a voiceover says: “… and when Kenya’s ‘oh no I copped a bad one’ fell at the pointy end, not even officials could steal victory from the Aussie”.

Earlier, a leaderboard graphic shows that the athlete’s name is ‘Ohno Ikopta-Badwon’. Ad Standards upheld the complaint, finding it breached the AANA Code of Ethics when it came to Discrimination or Vilification.

In its initial response, Sportsbet said it “takes a zero-tolerance approach to discrimination and/or vilification of any kind including, relevantly, on account of race, ethnicity or nationality”.

It insisted that the ad in question did not discriminate or vilify against any individual or group, saying it is instead “a light-hearted, comedic take on an Olympic walking event where competitors must walk across a lawn covered in prickly bindi”.

Referring to the name, ‘Ohno Ikopta-Badwon’, Sportsbet said it is descriptive of what happened to her in the race. “Nothing in the advertisement discriminates or vilifies on the basis of race, ethnicity or nationality, and none of the required elements of inequity, bigotry, intolerance, contempt or inciting hatred (among others) are present,” Sportsbet stated.

Sportsbet nonetheless decided to redo the advertisement with a new voiceover, despite being “satisfied the advertisement does not breach the code”.

The revised ad

In its determination, the Ad Standard Community Panel considered whether the ad breaches Section 2 of the AANA Code Of Ethics.

The majority of the panel considered that “while the Australian athlete has a name, Prickly Pam Patterson, the Kenyan athlete’s name is made as a joke.

“The majority of the panel considered that the advertisement is mocking the pronunciation of some Kenyan names, and that this was vilifying of the woman by humiliating and inciting ridicule of her, and all Kenyans, based on their names.”

Following the community panel’s determination, Sportsbet said: “Thank you for your letter dated 12 May 2021 regarding the advertisement, and for the opportunity to provide an Advertiser’s Statement in response to the Community Panel’s determination.

Sportsbet noted that the ad has already been changed with a new voiceover, and went on to say it is “deeply concerned by the Community Panel’s determination” and will be requesting an independent review of the determination.


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