Wonga deal with Football League ends

Blackpool shirtNigel French/EMPICS Sport

The websites of Premier and Football League clubs will no longer carry advertising for ultra-high-interest lender Wonga. A short-term deal had been in place from the end of 2011 to the end of the last football season, for the advert to be featured on a website platform used by more than 80 sides. That deal has formally concluded.

This has been welcomed by fans who have been campaigning for the company to be banned from advertising to supporters. But their fight continues.

The move

The Football League is at pains to point out that the adverts weren't 'dropped', but that the advertising deal with the company simply came to an end. They have since confirmed that the deal is unlikely to be extended, although the reasons why are unclear, and may have as much to do with response rates as any pressure from unhappy fans.

The controversy

Wonga remains a controversial business among many. It is one of 200 payday loans companies in the UK, which offer short-term loans at sky-high interest rates - several thousand percent interest rates are not unusual. They target the less well off, and there are concerns that those who cannot repay find themselves rolling loans over at huge cost, and facing enormous interest charges.

There has certainly been a fair amount of campaign activity from those who would like to see the payday lender dropped from sponsoring football. Back in March, fans of more than 20 football clubs wrote an open letter to the Guardian calling for a halt to Wonga advertising. They said: "We are football club supporters who object to the presence of banner advertisements for Wonga.com on the websites of the clubs we follow."

They took issue with the company itself, saying: "It has been argued that these companies are doing nothing illegal – but that is only because there are at present few, if any laws, restricting their activities in UK."

The supporters also drew attention to the fact the Office of Fair Trading is investigating the industry, and although it is yet to report its findings, the fans wanted their clubs to err on the side of caution.


By 25 July the industry has agreed to improve its codes of practice, and we will see at that point whether the worrying practices employed by some in the past will be outlawed. However, the Consumer Credit Counselling Service is warning that we cannot afford to miss this opportunity.

Its director of external affairs Delroy Corinaldi said: "What we will expect to see from these new codes is a detailed roadmap of how payday lenders are going to deal with the problems in their industry. In particular, we will be looking for improvements in key areas, including responsible lending and the treatment of people in financial difficulty. Anything less than this will represent a missed opportunity. We call on the Minister to keep the pressure on payday lenders and their trade associations to ensure that they produce improved codes that genuinely make a difference to business practices on the ground."


Meanwhile, Wonga continues its profitable business. It remains a prolific advertiser. In football it still sponsors the shirts of Blackpool football club, and Hearts in Scotland. It is also said to be considering floating on New York's Nasdaq exchange.

It could be argued that the ending of a small online advertising agreement is small potatoes for this booming company.

Advertising's most sexist ads
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Wonga deal with Football League ends

"A woman is only a woman but a good cigar is a smoke". Only a woman? Feminists would take issue at the "only" adverb, and the idea that any human being of either gender is inferior to a cancer-inducing product from Benson & Hedges.

Don't blame the ad men completely. That ad tag line is actually the evil work of one Rudyard Kipling. From a poem he penned called "The Bethrothed".

Now this is a creepy ad: "I have created a playground for men's hands." Armando Ghedini created wigs "for other men who adore women". This wig was also wash'n'wear. Nice.

The thoughtful signor Ghedini had also designed a wig to be combed in any direction, "for men to tousle". Men, he said, become "inspired" by women who wore it and women, Ghedini added, were grateful.

VW advertising has often been self-deprecating and clever. In 1960s America their ads were phenomenally successful, persuading thousands of Americans to ditch large thirsty home-made offerings for the company's cramped, noisy but economical Beetle.

Their ads flattered the intelligence of the American middle class. But this ad depicing a bashed-up VW bug? "Sooner or later your wife will drive home one of the best reasons for owning a Volkswagen". Not their female customers, clearly. What were they thinking?

Similarly, Easyjet also thought that a pair of ample breasts would be enough to help ticket sales. This ad dates back to 2003 when George Bush, Dick Cheney and Tony Blair were getting very animated about those hard-to-find weapons of mass destruction.

This particular ad garnered around 200 complaints to the Advertising Council and also escaped any ticking off. And plenty of publicity of course. It all worked out beautifully for Easyjet. Tits away, Stelios.

Car manufacturers and cigarette companies are regular sexist offenders. Here Italian typewriter maker Olivetti peddles the idea that young women are passive, servants ready to transcribe boardroom minutes at a moment's notice.

Where are Olivetti now in the global brand firmament?. Join the Olivetti girls. At ease, ladies, please.

Melon distributor F.H.Hogue of California thought his melons were pretty buxom and wanted to spread the word. Ho-ho, Mr Hogue.

There are plenty more examples and we'll be looking at more anther time. In the meantime let's leave with a woman knowing exactly where she should be (in the home, honey).

Here is a 1970s shoe ad from a brand called Weyenberg. You may find it hard to track down a Weyenberg shoe today however.

However, not all car makers followed such a well-worn patronising path. Back in the 1970s Honda in the US reversed the idea that women always needed cars with simple, easy-to-drive automatic gearboxes.

Despite offering both a manual and auto gearbox, neither was "a women's car" Honda stated firmly. Note the jaunty hat and jeans. A stab at selling to the US lesbian community? Or an independent straight girl fed up with stereotypes. Good for Honda.


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