Just weeks before the pandemic hit and scuppered 2020's summer of sport, old nemeses BT Sport and Sky Sports announced a landmark partnership allowing them to sell each other's channels to their customers. As the 2020/21 Premier League approaches, BT's advertising is now capitalising on the opportunity to get football fans in one place.
Set in a parallel universe, BT TV's latest campaign to mark the start of the 2020/21 Premier League depicts a football season where teams can make unlimited 'subs'. The chaotic, clever subversion is a ploy to highlight how BT customers can now easily switch in and out football packages from BT and Sky’s new partnership.
Weeks before the pandemic shattered sports schedules, Sky and BT announced a partnership allowing them to offer each other's channels to their subscribers. This meant that BT could sell Sky's flexible, no contract Now TV service – which along with Sky Sports also includes Sky Cinema and Sky Atlantic – and both providers could offer all 220 televised Premier League games to fans through one single bill.
While the alliance between two competitors might have appeared unnatural, their unlikely partnership was in fact a tactical move, orchestrated to fend off the looming online threat from digital giants such as Facebook and Amazon.
"It's what the proposition is built on," says Dave Stratton, BT Sport’s brand communication director, of the encroaching rivals. "As we look to go forward, we see an increasing proliferation, including the recent Disney+ launch as well as other over-the-top sport-specific launches. With BT TV, we want to be the aggregator of all that content. We want to bring those partners onto our service so that we can offer customers everything that they want to watch on one box with one search functionality, and ideally one billing platform."
To introduce this new offering in the world, back in February BT devised a campaign which Stratton explains was more entertainment-focused than sport. The lockdown delayed its rollout, but Stratton claims it still resulted in a 50% increase in subscriptions. "We'd expect to go even further at the start of the football season," he adds, bringing us to 'Unlimited Subs,' BT's bid to attract new customers onto its platform.
Unlimited Subs is a continuation of last year’s award-winning ‘Unscripted’ campaign which Stratton says was "probably the most successful campaign we’ve run on BT Sport".
“Tonally it’s very similar, which worked well with our audience. And so we wanted to take the learnings from that campaign and pull it forward into 'Unlimited Subs' because the success was so phenomenal."
And so after countless Zoom calls throughout lockdown between BT and its ad agency, Saatchi & Saatchi, the campaign finally came to light. It includes appearances from stars such as Marcus Rashford, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Gareth Bale and Carlo Ancelotti and places them in an alternative reality where teams are permitted to make unlimited substitutions during matches. Chaos duly ensues.
The spot even includes a surprise cameo from... Rebekah Vardy alongside her husband Jamie. "They were the couple we really wanted," Stratton explains. "And they actually agreed to do it on their holiday."