Ofcom Begin Query into Sky Sports Cricket Coverage after Credits Contain Advertising Messages

November 23, 2011

Sports media broadcaster Sky Sports is being investigated by Ofcom over sponsorship credits for its international cricket coverage that constituted advertising for the performance of Jaguar cars.

One sponsorship credit for cricket coverage on Sky Sports 1 featured a Jaguar car driving on a very wet road accompanied by Sky commentator David ‘Bumble’ Lloyd saying: “Well, that bit of rain hasn’t changed the performance at all.”

Media regulator Ofcom launched an investigation of the sponsorship under Rule 9.22(a) of the Broadcasting Code, which states that credits “must not contain advertising messages”.

Sky attempted to argue that cricket is “notoriously linked with delays for rain”, and so the Jaguar sponsorship credit thematically linked the sponsor to the programme in “an elegant and interesting fashion”.

The broadcaster said that the voiceover given by commentator Lloyd made “an obvious and immediate link from the sponsored programme to the sponsor credit”.

However, Ofcom disagreed with Sky that the word “performance” clearly referred to the actions of the cricketers, and not solely the quality of the car.

The regulator acknowledged that Sky had tried to identify the sponsorship relationship between Jaguar and International Cricket by linking wet weather and the interruption of cricketing play.

Ofcom also accepted that the sponsorship slogan could have a “double meaning” in the minds of viewers, as in referring to the effect of rain on the cricket and the car’s performance on the road.

However, the watchdog ruled that the the double meaning “does not necessarily prevent it from also amounting to an advertising message or claim about the sponsor or its products”, largely because the credit did not feature any images of cricket.

“Ofcom considered that the intended double meaning of the phrase was unlikely to have been sufficiently clear to the audience. This was because, in Ofcom’s view, there was more emphasis in the credit on the performance of the sponsor’s product and its performance, than on cricket,” said the regulator.

“While we took into account that the voiceover stating ‘Well, that bit of rain hasn’t changed the performance at all’ was read by a Sky cricket commentator, the visual that accompanied the voiceover was of a Jaguar car driving in extremely wet conditions. There was no cricket imagery and no reference to any specific cricketing term.

“Ofcom concluded that viewers were therefore likely to understand the reference to ‘performance’ to relate to the way in which the featured car functioned in wet driving conditions… it was a claim about a specific attribute of the sponsor’s product, capable of objective substantiation. Such claims are not permitted in sponsorship credits.”