Sky Sports warned over on-screen EA branding

Sky Sports has been rapped by media regulator Ofcom following complaints after "blatant" and "irrelevant" logos for technology partner EA Sports appeared on Sky Sports 2 match facts graphics.

Sky Sports: rapped over screening of EA logos during football match covrerage
Sky Sports: rapped over screening of EA logos during football match covrerage

The breach occurred on 11 September last year, during live coverage of the Premier League fixture between Everton and Manchester United.

During both the game and the pre- and post-match comment, graphic on-screen displays of statistics and match facts, which appeared a total of 14 times, were accompanied by a logo for the video games manufacturer, attracting a complaint from a viewer pointing to the logos inclusion as "irrelevant", "unnecessary" and "blatant".

Reacting to the complaint, Ofcom sought information on EA’s role in connection with the match data, and any contractual arrangements relating to the appearance of the on-screen branding.

Sky Sports confirmed the branding was not linked to any programme sponsorship arrangements it had entered into with EA.

Sky Sports explained that EA was contracted to the Premier League as the "Official Sports Technology Partner" and the broadcaster understood that this arrangement included sponsorship of the league itself, a sponsor presence at matches, and in other Premier League-controlled properties, including the overseas broadcast feed.

The broadcaster said that, as part of its contractual agreement with the Premier League for the live broadcast of certain matches, it is required, subject to applicable laws and the Ofcom codes, to provide an on-screen credit for the "Official Technology Partner".

It said that it maintained its independence of editorial control at all times, including where credits were given for EA or any other Premier League sponsor and that "no specific product or service was mentioned" and that no "sales messages" were present as part of the EA Sports logos, but that, "on this occasion, the application of the EA on-screen credit should have been subject to greater editorial judgement given the high-scoring nature of this particular game, which meant the credit was displayed on a higher than normal number of occasions".

Sky accepted that its editorial policy in that respect should be "clarified".

In response, Ofcom noted that "sports coverage is a genre in which branding and general commercial exposure can be expected" and that "audiences generally accept and understand that branding".

The regulator said that there was more likely to be sufficient editorial justification for a post-match interview to be conducted in front of venue advertising or sponsorship hoardings in sports coverage, than in other types of programme genres.

It noted that there was sufficient editorial justification for broadcasters to show brief and limited credits for companies who provide technical services to sports events and coverage. For example, the display of the names of companies who supply timing services when lap times, finishing times and so on were shown.

However, in that sense, EA Sports was not an official technology partner as it did not supply any of the data, which was split between an outsourced company and Sky Sport’s own internal data.

Ofcom said that in its view the inclusion of the logo could not be described as an editorially justified means of indicating to the audience who had been the technical provider of the statistical information in question.

In light of the fact that EA was not a technology or technical provider of the statistical data in question, Ofcom did not accept that there was any editorial justification for Sky to elect to add the EA logo to its coverage.

In the absence of any editorial justification, and in view of the inclusion of the logo, the regulator said that the only purpose it could serve was to promote the EA name and trade mark.

On this basis, Ofcom concluded that it had breached Rule 10.3 of the Broadcast Code, which states that products and services must not be promoted in programmes.

Also, due to the 14 repeated appearances of the logo Sky Sports was found in breach of Rule 10.3 of the Broadcast Code, which prohibits undue prominence of a product in programming.

Ofcom said that all broadcasters must comply with the current Broadcast Code, but that no further action would be taken against Sky Sports.

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