BT Sport "has found a way past Sky Sports' ban on screening its rival broadcaster's adverts" by signing a four-year shirt sponsorship deal with two of the teams Sky has signed up to televise, according to the PA. Scottish rugby sides Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh Rugby have agreed to a "substantial multi-million pound" contract that will mean both clubs will "sport BT's logo on their shirts." The Scottish sides compete in the RaboDirect Pro12 and Heineken Cup competitions. Sky "will screen Heineken Cup games from October this year and matches from the RaboDirect Pro12 from 2014" (PA, 7/29).
NO SPONSOR SCREENING: The SCOTSMAN reported 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 Scottish Premiership, the Premier League and rugby from England’s Aviva Premiership and France’s Top 14. However, "it will not screen games involving the two sides it has just signed up to sponsor." BT TV Retail CEO Marc Watson 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." Scottish Rugby Union CEO Mark Dodson "hinted the deal would see extra money be made available to strengthen both squads." Dodson 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" (SCOTSMAN, 7/29).
HARMONIOUS PARTNERSHIP: Video delivery firm Harmonic announced that BT Sport has built a production and playout system for its new sports channels using Harmonic video infrastructure (Harmonic).
Corporations linked to the 2014 Sochi Olympics in Russia, including NBC, "could be put on the defensive as gay-rights supporters urge U.S. officials to fight back against the country's draconian laws, including potentially boycotting the Games," according to E.J. Schultz of ADVERTISING AGE. Stolichnaya Vodka "has come out swinging against the Russian government's anti-gay policies." The brand responded aggressively, including posting a colorful message across its website and Facebook page saying it "stands strong and proud with the global LGBT community against the attitude and actions of the Russian government." The controversy "could cause headaches for U.S. corporations linked to the 2014 Winter Olympics that will be hosted in Sochi, Russia." In a column in the N.Y. Times this week, actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein called on the U.S. Olympic Committee to demand retraction of Russia's laws "under the threat of boycott." Still, "other gay-rights groups are opposed to a boycott." Outsports, which described itself as the "galactic leader in gay sports," recently editorialized that "the LGBT community needs to go after politicians and government officials to affect change in Russia and leave the future of Olympic athletes alone." Among those with a major stake in the Olympics proceeding as normal include NBC, "which will broadcast the Games, as well as major corporations such as Coca-Cola, AT&T and General Motors that have committed to millions of dollars in advertising." The Human Rights Campaign on Wednesday sent a letter to NBCUniversal CEO Stephen Burke urging the company to use its "unique opportunity" to "expose this inhumane and unjust law to the millions of American viewers who will tune into watch the Games" (ADVERTISING AGE, 7/29). In London, Ed Pilkington wrote NBC Sports Chair Mark Lazarus said that "there would be reporting of the issue but only if it should emerge as a problem during the Games." Lazarus told an audience at the Television Critics Association in Beverly Hills that "the issue of Russia's clampdown on gay men and lesbians had already been dealt with" by the IOC. The comments from Lazarus "are unlikely to tamp down calls from the LGBT community for NBC to highlight Russia's aggressively anti-gay laws in its coverage of the Winter Olympics" that begin in Sochi on Feb. 6 and run for 18 days (GUARDIAN, 7/28).
Bundesliga club FSV Mainz has extended its sponsorship deal with Coca-Cola for another three years until '16. The company retains its distribution rights for non-alcoholic beverages at the Coface Arena. Coca-Cola will also receive several maketing opportunities at the stadium and club facilities (FSV Mainz). ... Bundesliga club Hertha BSC Berlin has extended its exclusive partnership with car brand Audi for another three years until '16. The deal provides Audi with ad space in camera view as well as various other marketing opportunities. Audi has been a partner of the club since '06 (Hertha BSC). ... The Football Conference, which governs fifth- and sixth-tier football leagues in England and Wales, confirmed it has reached a deal with online payment company Skrill to be its new title sponsor. The three-year agreement will see the divisions named the Skrill Conference Premier, the Skrill Conference North and the Skrill Conference South in a deal 'comparable' to previous sponsorships (HALIFAX COURIER, 7/27). ... Volvo on Monday extended its support of the Super Rugby New South Wales Waratahs. It will become the team's principal sponsor starting next season. Formerly the Waratahs' sleeve sponsor the past two years, Volvo will "assume prime position on the front of the Waratahs sky blue jersey for the 2014 season and beyond" (THE AUTO CHANNEL, 7/29).