BT Sport push aims to recruit broadband users

BT hopes its “Willy Wonka”-esque marketing campaign to promote the launch of its new BT Sport channels, which pit it directly against Sky in the pay-TV market, will create a “warm brand effect” on its entire business and boost broadband subscriptions.

BT Sport
BT Sport outdoor ad

The BT Sport TV channels will launch this August, available free to its broadband customers for the first year and from £12 a month to those without. Customers can watch BT Sport via their YouView boxes, Vision boxes, Sky boxes, online and via its dedicated app, which will also contain additional content.

BT Sport has the rights to show 38 exclusive live Premier League football matches a season – including 18 top pick games. It has also secured the rights to broadcast top tier matches from international football leagues, the Aviva Premiership, top flight tennis, UFC, Moto GP and other sports.

Marketing activity to promote the launch will bring BT’s ad spend this year more in line with that of Sky, the UK’s biggest spending advertiser, according to David James, BT Retail marketing director for consumer.

TV ad

A TV ad campaign to promote the launch airs tonight (9 May). It sees BT Sport presenter Jake Humphrey taking viewers on a tour through the channels’ Olympic Park studio and features brand ambassadors including Manchester United’s Robin van Persie, England rugby star Owen Farrell and tennis player Heather Watson. The campaign was created by AMV BBDO and media bought by Maxus.

James explains the brand wanted to depict a “magic world” where consumers can access sport. It had previously tried other creative iterations, including leveraging its long-running student series, but settled on the final “extravagant” creative after internal and consumer testing.

He adds: “[We thought] what would it be like if you had this Willy Wonka’s sport factor world, a fantasy world. The feel of the channel and studio will be so different and we wanted to try to bring that to life, so we made it slightly extravagant.”

Other marketing activity includes one of the “biggest ever” outdoor activations, social media, print and digital display. The brand is also benefiting from some of its talent – such as Rio Ferdinand – actively tweeting about the channels, although James says it has not been written into their contracts to promote the service and they are not being encouraged by the company to do so.

The aim of the game

James says the aim of the campaign will be to push brand “awareness through the roof”, create “a warm brand effect” and ultimately encourage people to switch broadband provider to BT to take advantage of the free subscription offer.

He adds: “At the heart of this is our broadband business. Clearly it’s a big investment and the business wants to grow revenue and profit so it’s a business transaction. The model for us is to use this as a lever [for consumers to take] broadband and fixed line services, it’s a cornerstone strategy. Sky calls sport its crown jewels: it’s something that really motivates people and helps us drive our whole business.”

Last month BT complained to Ofcom about BSkyB’s refusal to air its TV ad campaign on its channel portfolio on the grounds its rival was showing “undue discrimination”. BSkyB responded with a letter to the press saying allowing BT Sport to advertise on Sky Sports would be like “Tesco being able to advertise inside Sainsbury’s”. Ofcom’s investigation is still ongoing.

James would not comment on the inquiry but asserted BT Sport is “complementary” to Sky Sports, rather than a competitor.

BT currently has 6.3 million broadband customers and 750,000 take pay-TV. Sky has 10 million pay-TV customers and 4.3 million on broadband.

BT Sport is also competiting with Sky in pubs and clubs, with the company offering a 12 month for nine and free installation discount package, while packages for hotels and betting shops could undercut Sky Sports by as much as 75 per cent.

BSkyB’s share price fell almost 6 per cent as investors reacted to BT’s announcement this morning (9 May).

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