An ad for The Sun newspaper’s Dream Team fantasy football competition has been banned for offering the “sexist and offensive” prize of a date with a page three girl.
An email sent to subscribers of the competition said those who recruited 10 players or more to their league would be entered into a prize draw for a date with a page three girl.
It added: “We might even let you pick which one, so feel free to start your research now ... Don’t listen to your girlfriend when she says size doesn’t matter. The bigger your Mini League is, the more prizes you can get your mitts on.”
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received 1,036 complaints, many of which were submitted as part of a campaign led by SumOfUs.org, claiming that the offer of the date was sexist and objectified women and therefore offensive and socially irresponsible.
Many of the complainants also believed the date offer was an incentive to gamble and also therefore socially irresponsible.
News UK & Ireland Ltd, trading as The Sun, said page three “celebrities” had been connected with Dream Team promotional activity for around six years, and a number were Mini League chairmen.
The Sun said approximately 93% of the recipients of the email were male and comprised of either previous or current Dream Team players, and it did not believe that the email would cause offence to these people.
It also said the date with a page three girl was not the only prize on offer, and customers could also win a paintballing session or £50 (€63).
Upholding the complaints, the ASA said it understood that The Sun’s male and female celebrities, including page three girls, were involved in the Dream Team game as chairpersons and had featured in previous promotional activities.
But it said: “In the context of the ad, we considered that to offer a date with a woman as a reward for success in the game was demeaning to women and objectified those offered as prizes.
“We also considered that the wording ’we might even let you pick which one, so feel free to start your research now’ further enhanced the impression that the women were simply objects to be selected at the whim and enjoyment of the winner, and had no choice in the matter themselves.”
It concluded: “Because we considered that the email presented the women as objects to be won, we concluded that it was sexist, offensive and socially irresponsible.”
It ruled that the ad must not appear again in its current form, adding: “We told The Sun to ensure that their future advertising contained nothing that was socially irresponsible or likely to cause serious or widespread offence.”
A Sun spokesman said: “We are disappointed that the ASA has chosen to rule in this way. We believe that the email and prize was an obviously light-hearted marketing exercise.
“We note that there have been countless campaigns of a broadly similar, light-hearted nature run by other companies – including those involving a ’win a date with’ scenario – which have not been ruled ’socially inappropriate’ by the ASA.
“We will abide by the judgment, but wish to register our deep disappointment at this decision.”