Consumer Ombudsman: JVG and Unibet violated the rules of influencer marketing

The Consumer Ombudsman has examined the commercial co-operation between the band JVG and the gambling company Unibet and has identified several problems in it. The marketing of foreign gambling companies is prohibited in Finland and is therefore also contrary to good practice under the Consumer Protection Act. In addition, marketing on social media and in the music video did not meet the requirement of recognisability of advertising.

In Finland, Veikkaus Oy has the exclusive right to implement and market gambling. This arrangement aims to reduce the harm caused by gambling. In co-operation between JVG and Unibet, the marketing of foreign gambling was directed to Finland, which is why the National Police Board found the marketing to be in violation of the Lotteries Act. Illegal marketing is also in conflict with generally accepted societal values and is therefore also contrary to good practice under the Consumer Protection Act. For this reason, the Consumer Ombudsman also took a position on the matter.

Commercial co-operation must not be ambiguous

Any commercial co-operation must be clearly stated in marketing so that the consumer knows immediately that they are the subject of commercial influence. In practice, recognisability is created by, for example, an indication of an advertisement or commercial co-operation at the beginning of a social media publication. JVG Instagram posts used the hashtag #teamunibet at the end of the text, but otherwise the publications did not reveal that this was a commercial collaboration.

There were also clear shortcomings in the recognisability of marketing on JVG’s music video Frisbee. In the video, the artists were dressed in racing drivers’ clothing, where the only advertising badges were Unibet advertisements. The video was later republished and the logos were blurred.

The Frisbee music video was originally published on the Unibet Finland channel, making it a clear part of the commercial co-operation between JVG and Unibet, but this was not clearly highlighted. Even though the commercial co-operation was visible to people who viewed the video explicitly on the Unibet Finland channel, YouTube videos can also be shared in social media, where the publication channel does not appear as clearly.

"Companies are always responsible for their marketing, but the responsibility and awareness of influencers and public figures is emphasised even more as social media brings new opportunities for marketing co-operation. Hidden advertising is not acceptable under any circumstances."

– Consumer ombudsman Katri Väänänen

The supervision of the Consumer Ombudsman focused on artists as self-employed persons and they were considered to have acted as professional influencers, i.e. the marketing involved the pursuit of a business. JVG’s record company stated that it was in no way involved in the marketing co-operation.

At the request of the Consumer Ombudsman, JVG undertook, among other things, to ensure the recognisability of marketing in the future.

The Consumer Ombudsman’s policy Influencer marketing in social media provides instructions to both companies and influencers on how to communicate about commercial co-operation.