Sponsored Tweets – Celebrity Endorsements on Twitter

Cosgrove Gaynard Solicitors

The Advertising Standards Agency in the UK recently cleared a marketing campaign by Mars Chocolate UK which used sponsored tweets in relation to its Snickers brand. It was the first ruling by the UK ad watchdog involving Twitter.

Sponsored Tweets – Celebrity Endorsements on Twitter

The Advertising Standards Agency in the UK recently cleared a marketing campaign by Mars Chocolate UK which used sponsored tweets in relation to its Snickers brand. It was the first ruling by the UK ad watchdog involving Twitter.

Mars had hired Rio Ferdinand and Katie Price to place sponsored tweets on Twitter in relation to its brand. The Tweets were sent in January 2012 with the launch of its UK campaign for “You’re not you when you’re hungry”

The first four tweets were what people would see as odd statements in light of the celebrities posting them and made no reference to Snickers.

Rio Ferdinand tweeted:

  • “Really getting into the knitting!!! Helps me relax after high-pressure world of the Premiership”
  •  “Can’t wait 2 get home from training and finish that cardigan”, “Just popping out 2 get more wool!!!”
  •  “Cardy finished. Now 4 the matching mittens!!!” and
  • “You’re not you when you’re hungry @snickersUk #hungry #spon …”.

The final tweet included a picture of Rio Ferdinand holding a Snickers bar.

Katie Price tweeted:

  • “Great news about China’s latest GDP figures!!”
  • “Chinese leaders are now likely to loosen monetary policy to stimulate growth. Yay!!”
  •  “OMG!! Eurozone debt problems can only properly be solved by true fiscal union!!! #comeonguys”
  •  “Large scale quantitative easing in 2012 could distort liquidity of govt. bond market. #justsayin” and
  •  “You’re not you when you’re hungry @snickersUk  #hungry  #spon …”.

Katie Price followed the same format as Ferdinand, including a picture of her holding a snickers bar in the last tweet and as with Ferdinand, the brand was only mentioned in the last tweet.

Unlike Mars UK, Nike managed to fall foul of the ASA when it found that Nike had broken its advertising code when it placed endorsements two English football players, Wayne Rooney and Jack Wilshire .

The ASA found that the URL and the hash tag may be missed  and that also not all followers would be aware of the footballers’ prior association with Nike. In essence it was found that the sponsored tweets were not clearly identifiable as advertising.

Whilst these sponsored tweets are only now beginning to appear in the UK, they are very common place in the US. It is reported the Snoop Dogg, a well known US rapper with over 6 million followers, makes about $8,000 or more per tweet with Paula Abdul , earning a reported $5,000 per tweet.

The US Federal Trade Commission has issued guidelines in relation to endorsements on social media. The guidelines make it clear that the person tweeting must make it clear that they are being paid for the endorsement for example by the use of hashtags #spon (short for sponsored) or #ad.

Although there are no specific guidelines issued in relation to sponsored tweets in Ireland, there are a growing number of sport stars and celebrities here acting as multi-platform brand ambassadors, which no doubt includes tweeting on behalf of the  brand.  It should be noted that that tweeting without disclosing the sponsorship could be caught by the Consumer Protection Act 2007 on misleading commercial practices.

It is likely that this issue will arise shortly here and therefore businesses should ensure that any such tweets do not fall foul of legislation. They should clearly identify the endorsement on twitter as being a sponsored advert . Also, it is wise to use reference to the official account i.e.  @snickersUK, the official Snickers Twitter account.

It is interesting to note that although Twitter provide its own service for promoting tweets – API which is an automated system for placing promoted and sponsored tweets, it does not prevent Twitter users placing sponsored tweets once the user is manually tweeting each sponsored tweet.   One wonders how long twitter will allow for this to continue to exist without taking a revenue cut.

(c) Cosgrove Gaynard Solicitors

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