Broadcasters are going further in the promotion of their sports channels and the community is benefitting, writes Julian Clover.
A new front line has opened up in the battle between sports channels. No longer is it sufficient to just have the best sport on offer for your subscribers, now the channels have to demonstrate what they are doing for the community, or produce contemporary sports stars to bang the drum for the channel. If policeman are getting younger, so too the commentary box.
In its launch campaign BT Sport has produced a line-up of current football, rugby and tennis stars to act as Ambassadors for the channels. The likes of footballers Gareth Bale, Robin van Persie, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Daniel Sturridge, Thomas Vermaelen and Joe Hart ensure that all the top flight clubs are represented, so there is someone for everyone to identify.
One of BT Sport marketing messages is that it is returning sport to the grass-roots fans; at least those who take their broadband from the telco.
But watching Sky Sports’ cricket coverage last weekend I noticed a new tagline had appeared under the logo. Every time the familiar Sky Sports moniker appeared on the screen it was accompanied by the phrase Living for Sport.
This is an initiative the broadcaster has put together with secondary schools in partnership with the Youth Sport Trust. It brings support and advice to secondary schools from some of the country’s best known sports stars.
The Living for Sport website offers a long list of sportsmen and sportswomen who will act as mentors on their chosen sports.
When Sky first secured the rights to live test cricket there was an emphasis on what the money – unobtainable from free-to-air television – could do for grass-roots sport. Seven years on there is no indication of any harm from the most English of sports being absent from non-pay households.
In recent years Sky’s support for cycling has been notiable, not least with the success of the British team at the Olympics. It is also handy that cycling is popular in Germany and Italy, though I suspect that to be a happy coincidence.
The curiosity of Sky’s cycling support has been that until recently there has been little cycling coverage on the Sky Sports channels, the rights held by ITV and Eurosport, but with the Giro d’Italia Sky is showing nightly stage highlights.