Guiding On-Air Sports Journalists On Sponsorship: Complex Future?

For weeks now, there has been coverage of ESPN’s most high profile reporters, Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter, being paid to tweet about Domino’s Pizza during the College Football Playoff.  

The biggest problem was, there was no indication that  these tweets were sponsored. Domino’s said it was a mistake. Fair enough.

This kind of sponsorship isn’t new. Other on-air sports personalities have also done sponsored tweets in the past -- deals that are not connected to any advertising activity at their respective networks (at least we are told that).

So to be clearer, ESPN recently sent to its on-air talent specific guidelines about sponsored tweets -- like its talent being liable for stuff that is false, deceptive, and/or misleading. That makes sense.



Want to be even clearer? The Federal Trade Commission has said words like “Paid Ad,” “Sponsored,” or “Promotion” are effective clarity for consumers, confirming that the thoughts in a tweet are indeed financially connected to a marketer.

But shouldn’t we look more broadly? Has digital media changed our perception of journalists?  

For example, anyone would be worried if the general news TV reporter/anchor were to sponsor a product/service in a regular TV commercial -- as well as if a TV journalist also did a sponsored tweet.

That can’t be good either -- even if 140 characters of text has a different value than 30-second video in a commercial. It shouldn’t matter concerning what venue/platform.

But sports TV commentators and on-air sports journalists? They do appear in commercials -- typically, funny ads. Viewers don’t seem to mind because, hey, it’s sports after all.

Should sports journalists continue to get a pass if they hold a bottle of Gatorade in an TV commercial, or suggest in a text how to quench the rising heat of an NFL playoff game?

And what happens if things get more complex? What if that commercial is followed by a sports newscast with a panel discussion about too many coaches getting doused by his players with large buckets of some carbo-fueling beverage?

TV producers and business executives have editorial protections against this stuff, I’m told. Me? Just hoping for clearer pictures, with easier-to-digest pixels.

2 comments about "Guiding On-Air Sports Journalists On Sponsorship: Complex Future?".
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  1. Michael Kaplan from Blue Sky Creative, January 29, 2016 at 4:54 p.m.

    Yeah, it's a "mistake" we cleverly tried to fool the public, but were caught. Uh huh, scout's honor.

  2. Sheldon Senzon from JMS Media, Inc., January 29, 2016 at 5:01 p.m.

    Of course it's not ethical nor Kosher. Your timing is a little off as Chris Mortensen is battling Stage 4 Cancer. Enough said.

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