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Sportsbet pull Ben Johnson ad from live sport

Sat, May 20, 11:47am by Staff Writer

Sportsbet has opted to pull its controversial Ben Johnson advertisement from all live sport this weekend as pressure grows for the betting company to drop the campaign completely.

A furore has erupted over the ad which spruiks the corporate bookmaker’s new android app and features disgraced sprinter Johnson promoting Sportsbet ‘putting the ‘Roid into Android’.

The campaign is a reference to Johnson using anabolic steroids to win the gold medal in the 100m sprint at the 1998 Seoul Olympics, which he was stripped of two days later.

Sportsbet also use a likeness of cyclist Lance Armstrong, as well as Eastern European weightlifters and Chinese swimmers.

It has drawn fire from politicians, sports stars and anti-doping bodies who accuse it of glorifying drug use in sport.

Over 150 complaints were made to the Advertising Standards Bureau, which is expected to rule on its appropriateness for broadcast next week.

But with betting advertising on live sports already in the government’s sights, Sportsbet has elected not to broadcast the ad during AFL, NRL and Super Rugby matches this weekend.

“In light of the fuss that’s being made in some quarters, we’ve removed the ad from TV coverage of live sport,” Sportsbet spokesman Ben Hawes told the Herald Sun.

But the company does not believe it has breached any regulations or breached good taste guidelines.

“We’ve been overwhelmed with the support from the public,” he said.

However, the decision takes some heat off corporate bookmakers with Communications Minister Mitch Fifield spearheading a change to regulations which allows betting advertising in live sport before 8:30pm.

Fifield described the ad as ‘dumb’ earlier this week, while sport minister Greg Hunt called for it to be pulled from networks.

Sportsbet won’t reveal what it paid Johnson to appear in the ad, but has said it is nothing like the $200,000 reported in the media.

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