BT sends in the subs ahead of Premier League kick-off

Campaign riffs on last year’s idea of ‘unscripted’ ad.

BT is changing the rules of the beautiful game in a campaign ahead of the 2020/2021 Premier League’s kick-off.

Created by Saatchi & Saatchi, “Unlimited substitutions” shows a drab committee meeting (featuring Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti) in which the participants conclude that “football needs a total reset”.

Together, the team proposes that clubs can carry out unlimited substitutions – including the ability to “switch whole teams out, in any competition” – in a bid to add more flexibility for the beautiful game.

The team’s proposal goes viral, generating strong reactions from Gary Lineker and Rio Ferdinand as well as Jamie Vardy (alongside his now infamous wife Rebekah), who is shocked to be subbed during a Leicester City match.

“Unlimited substitutions” launches today (29 August) to coincide with the FA Community Shield, and will run for two weeks alongside outdoor, print, radio and social activity.

It was written by Sam Simmonds, art directed by George Coyle and directed by Ben Corfield at Stitch Editing. Media was handled by Essence.

BT Sport: campaign includes outdoor activity

The ad highlights BT’s flexible TV offering, which allows consumers to swap out their football package month on month.

“It's quite a happy coincidence that the campaign is probably even more relevant at this moment in time,” Dave Stratton, brand and demand generation director at BT, told Campaign.

Although the campaign was planned ahead of the coronavirus pandemic, one aspect of Project Restart – the Premier League’s contingency plan to finish last season after football returned in June – was that clubs were allowed five substitutions per match instead of the usual three, though this rule has since been scrapped for next season.

Last year’s BT campaign played with the idea of “scripting” football in the form of a screenplay-style script, which Stratton has hailed as the brand’s “most successful campaign ever in terms of return on investment”.

He continued: “We wanted to keep that form, the fan-centric approach that people want to talk about, and that's really what led us to the direction we're in today.

“When people who are unsure of what's going to take place the over the coming weeks and months, especially from the football side of things, having the ability to switch your packages on and off is even more relevant than it's ever been.”

Stratton added: “As we come to the start of the football season, it was a great opportunity for us to take that package and blow it up for football fans around the start of the season.”

In June, BT Sport celebrated the return of football with a spot encapsulating the highs and lows of watching football from home.

In July, BT Sport awarded its advertising sales contract to broadcast rival Sky Media, meaning that the telecoms company exclusively sells ads and sponsorships across all BT Sport channels in the UK. 

A grassroots campaign

BT has also released a spot to support the FA Playmaker – an entry level course for volunteers ahead of the grassroots season – which is also set to make its TV debut during BT's coverage of the FA Community Shield.

"The club", created by Havas agency Cake, signposts BT’s target of signing-up 100,000 FA Playmakers by 2024, half of which to be women.

“At the heart of our partnership is the growth and development of grassroots football,” Pete Jeavons, marketing communications director at BT said.

“The FA Playmaker course means you can come from any background, without an association with football previously, and make a difference to a sport that means so much to millions of people across the country. 

“We’re encouraging as many people as possible to get involved.”

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