BT Sport chiefs may be patting themselves on the back for boosting viewing figures but the major ad campaign promoting its Champions League coverage has been on the receiving end of a crunch tackle even Chelsea legend Ron Harris would have been proud of.
The ads, which ran on TV, direct mail, outdoor and online, attracted 26 complaints to the ad watchdog, with 24 questioning whether the channel was actually “free”, while others believed claims about the cost of the package and the contract were misleading.
The TV ad, by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, depicted a TV executive trying to convince football stars, including Gareth Bale and David Luiz, to wear a number zero on the back of their shirts.
The voiceover said: “The Uefa Champions League, free for our BT TV customers”. Other executions, including the mailshot and online ads used similar text, such as “Watch the Uefa Champions League for free”, and “BT Sport Europe Free with BT TV”.
In its defence, the firm said BT Sport was provided to TV customers who opted to take it at no extra cost with a one-month minimum term. It could be cancelled at any time with 30 days’ notice and details of the notice period were provided when consumers bought BT broadband.
It insisted BT Sport was free with BT TV, on a conditional purchase basis. If consumers took BT TV, they could opt-in and add the BT Sport pack to their package at no additional cost.
But the Advertising Standards Authority was having none of it. Banning the ads from running again in their current form, the regulator stated: “We considered it was likely to be understood by consumers to mean that if they wished to view Champions League games, they would need to renew their BT TV and broadband contract for 18 months or alternatively pay £5 per month.
“We noted it was not possible to continue to view BT Sport without paying the additional monthly fee or re-contracting and acknowledged the main body of the ad did not state that consumers had the option to cancel their BT Sport pack without the need pay extra or have to extend their contract.”
However, in its most recent results released last month, BT said that its TV customer base now stands at 1.3 million, so it will probably be not that bothered by the ruling. In the quarter, BT Sport’s average daily audience figures increased 47%, with “encouraging viewing figures from the UEFA Champions League” recorded so far.
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