Christians have said they are “grateful” after their complaint against an advertisement by betting organisation Sporting Index was upheld by the UK industry watchdog.
The advert, seen in City AM and the Racing Post, featured an image of Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer statue which had been digitally manipulated to show Jesus with his right arm around a bikini-clad woman, his hand resting just above her bottom, and a bottle of champagne in his left hand, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said.
The statue’s face had been altered from a solemn expression to a smile, and a large caption stated “There’s a more exciting side to Brazil”.
Further text stated “World Cup excitement guaranteed”.
The ASA said it had received 25 complaints about the advert, including from the Evangelical Alliance, which challenged whether it was likely to cause serious or widespread offence.
The company said the statue had long been strongly associated with Rio, and they intended the imagery to be light-hearted, humorous and cartoon-like instead of true-to-life.
They considered that the utilisation of a large amount of digital manipulation ultimately achieved this objective, and that the complaints received did not amount to causing serious or widespread offence.
The ASA upheld the complaints, saying: “We considered that a depiction of Jesus with his arm around a largely undressed woman, holding a champagne bottle and apparently celebrating a gambling win was likely to cause offence to a significant number of Christians.”
It also ruled that the advert breached the advertising code by linking gambling with sexual success.
Dr Dave Landrum, director of advocacy of the Alliance, said: “We are grateful that the Advertising Standards Authority has upheld the Alliance’s view on behalf of Christians everywhere.
“This advertisement was in poor taste and clearly likely to cause offence. Even so, the expressions of incredulity from City AM and Sporting Index at the complaints illustrate a patent failure to grasp why such mockery and disfigurement of the person of Christ should be deemed offensive at all.
“Such religious illiteracy and lack of respect for faith communities in the UK is concerning.
“Despite some assumptions that society would become ever more secular, it is now clear that this is not happening and that faith will play an increasingly important role in British society.
“We hope the ASA decision will encourage businesses to think twice before seeking to exploit religious images and sentiments for financial gain.”