A ‘racist’ advert for bookmakers Paddy Power that urged punters to ‘always bet on black’ before the Floyd Mayweather fight with Conor McGregor has been banned.
Watchdogs ruled that the ad, seen in the Evening Standard and Metro newspapers before the much hyped ‘superfight’ last month, was likely to cause ‘serious offence’.
The ad featured the headline claim ‘Always Bet On black’ alongside an image of Mayweather.
Further text stated: ‘We’ve paid out early on a Mayweather victory because we checked, and only one of them is a boxer.’
Nine people, who considered that the headline contained an obvious reference to Mayweather’s race, complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) that it was likely to cause serious or widespread offence.
Paddy Power claimed the ad was not intended to cause offence on the grounds of race.
The firm, whose high profile ad campaigns have often courted controversy, claimed the headline was a gambling related ‘pun’ as the fight was taking place in Las Vegas and ‘betting on black’ was a roulette reference.
Paddy Power acknowledged that the headline referred to Mayweather’s race, but said it was not used in a ‘derogatory, distasteful or offensive manner’ and the overall tone of the ad was ‘light-hearted and humorous’.
The firm said the early pay out was not based on Mayweather’s race but on his experience as a professional boxer compared with mixed martial arts fighter McGregor who’d never boxed professionally.
Paddy Power claimed the headline was a quote from the 1992 film Passenger 57, where Wesley Snipes asked ‘Do you ever play roulette? Well, let me give you a word of advice: always bet on black’.
They said the Snipes quote was ‘well known’ and would be instantly recognised by their demographic of customers who were adult and predominantly male sports bettors.
Paddy Power even said the campaign was approved by Mayweather himself who found the line ‘funny, rather than offensive or derogatory’.
The phrase ‘always bet on black’ was embroidered on the underwear Mayweather wore at the official weigh-in in Las Vegas.
Mayweather also posted an image of himself wearing the underwear on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #alwaysbetonblack, which was not part of the sponsorship deal.
But the ASA upheld the complaints, finding the ad to be in breach of rules regarding harm and offence.
Paddy Power was also warned to avoid causing serious offence on the grounds of race in its future advertising.
An ASA spokesman said: ‘We considered that readers would interpret the headline to be a pun on Floyd Mayweather’s race and betting on roulette.
‘We understood that the headline was also intended to be a reference to a 1992 film quote.
‘There was, however, nothing further in the ad which indicated that the headline was a film quote, and we considered that many readers would be unfamiliar with the quote.
‘We acknowledged that the headline claim did not make a negative statement about Floyd Mayweather’s race and had endorsed him to win the match.
‘We also acknowledged that Floyd Mayweather had authorised the claim.
‘However, we considered that readers would nevertheless be offended by the invitation to always bet on the outcome of a boxing match based on a boxer’s race, and the message that the boxing match was a fight between two different races.
‘For those reasons, we concluded that the ad was likely to cause serious offence on the grounds of race.’
He added: ‘We told Paddy Power to ensure they avoided causing serious offence on the grounds of race.’
Mayweather won the fight by technical knockout in the tenth round, and subsequently retired undefeated.