Belfast Telegraph

Monday 15 September 2014

Shirt deal gives BT added exposure

BT Sport have signed sponsorship deals with Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh Rugby

BT Sport has found a way past Sky Sports' ban on screening its rival broadcaster's adverts after signing a four-year shirt sponsorship deal with two of the teams Sky has signed up to televise this season.

Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh Rugby have agreed a "substantial multi-million pound" deal that will see both clubs sport BT's logo on their shirts.

The Scottish sides complete in the RaboDirect Pro12 and Heineken Cup, competitions which are to be screened live next year by Sky.

The announcement of the deal follows an Ofcom ruling last month which rejected BT's complaints over Sky's refusal to promote its new rivals on its own channels.

BT will launch three channels later this week, broadcasting live football from the Barclays Premier League in England and Scotland's newly-formed Scottish Premiership.

Its rugby content includes Aviva Premiership matches and France's Top 14 - but it will not screen games involving the two sides it has just signed up to sponsor.

However, Marc Watson, chief executive of TV for BT Retail, claims that could change in future.

When asked if the deal with Edinburgh and Glasgow was a ploy to get around Sky's ban, he said: "When you are looking at a sponsorship arrangement, one of the things you look at is who is going to see your logo, your brand. The audience that follows Scottish rugby is an important audience for us to reach.

"The RaboDirect (PRO12) will be covered by Sky and other broadcasters too in the next few years and that broadcaster exposure is one of the elements - but not the only one - in what is quite a broad deal with Scottish Rugby.

"We launch three channels later this week and it's a major strategic objective of the company to establish those channels and to make them a success. As we are launching those channels into the marketplace it seems an obvious thing to use this deal to help promote those channels.

"This is a sponsorship deal, not a broadcasting deal. We will look in the future at all opportunities to broadcast sports as they come up and if an opportunity comes up to broadcast (the Scottish) rugby teams then of course we will look at it.

"For the rugby fan, we believe we (already) have a lot that is attractive and that is appealing."

Mark Dodson, chief executive of the Scottish Rugby Union - which owns both Edinburgh and Glasgow - hinted the deal would see extra money be made available to strengthen both squads.

He said: "This is the most lucrative shirt sponsorship deal we have ever signed - by some margin. It dwarfs any deal we have signed in the past.

"We will always be looking for the best players possible. If that means the player budget rises as a consequence, that is what will happen.

"I've given both coaches (Gregor Townsend and Stevie Scott) the reassurance that if there is a top-class player out there that they want, who wants to come to Scotland, we will fund it."

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