To free or not to free

BT Sport have this evening released an advert promoting their MotoGP coverage which will begin next season. The advert will be seen in several newspapers across the country beginning tomorrow and features Dani Pedrosa, Valentino Rossi and Cal Crutchlow. Whilst the advert may be controversial in the wording, the actual visuals and adverts in nationwide newspapers is a fantastic advert for MotoGP itself, and is head and shoulders above the visuals on a similar Sky Sports advert for their Formula 1 coverage.

The main wording on the advert is as follows:

Every Lap Free.
From next season, BT Sport’s new TV channels will have the exclusive rights to all the MotoGP Grand Prix for the next five years, including every warm up, practice, qualifying and race live.
FREE with BT Broadband.
Call 0800 500 240. btsport.com.

The small print is as follows:

Available 1 Aug. Residential broadband customers only. BT broadband customers can watch BT Sport online at home with a minimum line speed of 400kbps. To watch BT Sport online elsewhere you need 3G/4G wifi (charges may apply). To watch BT Sport at btsport.com you need Microsoft Silverlight. The BT Sport App works on iPhone (3GS and above), iPad (iOS 5.1.1 and above) & selected Android devices with OS 4.0. BT Sport is also available on the Sky Digital Platform and on BT TV with Infinity for new and existing broadband customers who sign up for 12 months or have 12 months remaining on their contract, ongoing renewal needed to get free BT Sport. e-billing required. UK only. Terms apply. Please check bt.com/sport for details.

So, the advert makes clear and bold use of the word free several times. The misleading advertising section of the Advertising Standards Authority code is relevant here. I think it is a fine line here between what is and what is not acceptable. What strikes it in the advert though is that it does say that BT Sport is free with BT Broadband. Should the word ‘only’ be added at the end of that sentence? Of course. But BT will say that it does not violate the code as it “make clear the extent of the commitment the consumer must make to take advantage of a “free” offer”. However, where in the small print does it say that the consumer must pay a fee to view BT Sport on BT Infinity or with Sky? It doesn’t. Therefore, the consumer may be misled into thinking that BT Sport is free with Sky. Which, as we know, is incorrect if you do not have BT Broadband.

Another possible point of contention is the idea that the customer could be getting BT Broadband free as a result. I think the consumer would understand that the actual broadband package will cost money, but may still be a point of contention. Whilst the advert is misleading in some ways, I cannot see the advert being pulled. Their adverts have already come under scrutiny, so we shall see what happens.

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3 thoughts on “To free or not to free

  1. That’s so full of potential ASA breaches it’s untrue.

    Any sentence including the word free should be immediately followed by ‘MOST BT CUSTOMERS’.

    This is because people with a marginal 1/2 meg connection can’t view it. It also makes no mention of the fact that presumably at the speed the bikes look like they’re made out of Lego the bitrate will be so low.

    It’s also not free if you want a proper bill as you have to sign up to e-billing,

    It also needs to be made clear that you also need to sign up for a fresh 12 month contract.

    The whole thing is misleading and ambiguous.

    I shall keep an eye out for this advert, because the other thing the ASA is really hot on is relative text sizes which I suspect is massive here.

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