ASA bans BT Sport ad for misleading customers about 'free' content

The Advertising Standards Authority has banned a TV ad promoting BT Sport because it misled some consumers into thinking that they could access the content for free online.

The ad depicts sports presenter Jake Humphries walking into various scenes of people watching BT Sport on TV, including in a barber’s shop and a pub.

One consumer is shown watching via his tablet. The on-screen text states: "UK residential only. Watch Online 400kps speed on BT TV with Infinity or Sky Digital Satellite Platform (12 month min BT Broadband term on TV). Terms apply".

At the end of the ad a voice-over says, "£12 a month for Sky customers or free with BT Broadband." Symbols representing a TV, satellite dish and computer appeared on-screen.

The ad received five complaints, with four of the complainants, including TalkTalk, arguing that the ad was misleading because it did not make it clear that Sky Sports was not free to view online if consumers did not have access to Sky Digital or BT TV through Infinity.

The other complainant objected to the ad because it featured scenes featuring businesses and he understood that BT Sport was not free to business customers.

BT said it believed from previous dealings with the ASA that, when making explicit references to watching BT Sport on TV, it should highlight the platforms which enabled customers to watch BT Sport on their TV for free, and that it was sufficient to do so in qualifying text.

It argued that the on-screen text made it clear that customers should have either Infinity and BT TV or Sky Digital Satellite to watch BT Sport.

But the ASA concluded that the "on-screen qualification did not make clear that BT Sport was only available to view online unless customers also had access to Sky Digital or BT TV with Infinity, and because it was not shown at the time the "free" offer was referenced in the voice-over, we concluded the ad was misleading".

Regarding the objection that the ad implied BT Sport was free to business customers, BT said the ad showed no call-to-action for business customers, and the scenes shot in the pub and barber’s were meant to depict the concept of watching BT Sport in different locations.

BT said the final scene showed Humphries sitting down with two non-business customer, making it clear who the promotion was aimed at.

But the ASA countered that "the ‘free’ offer promoted in the ad was not available to BT business customers and we considered that, in this context, it was misleading to feature scenes in businesses".

The ASA ruled that the ad must not be broadcast again in its current form and that ads for "free" offers should be more clearly worded in the future, while BT should take care when featuring scenes of BT Sport being watched in businesses when the offers in such ads did not apply to business customers.

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