World Cup 2018

FA Deploys Supponor Virtual-Replacement Technology for World Cup Warm-Up Match

Fans in the venue and those at home see different ads on LED perimeter boards

The Football Association (FA) delivered a world first by deploying virtual-replacement bechnology on the LED perimeter signage to target different worldwide broadcast audiences in its recent international match against Costa Rica. The deployment during England’s FIFA World Cup warm-up game played at Elland Road stadium in Leeds last week was the first time anywhere in the world that this LED-driven technology has been in full live commercial use in international football.

The FA is the latest football organization to begin working with virtual-signage–insertion technology from Supponor.

The potential for virtual-replacement technology is substantial, according to FA Senior Broadcast Manager Tom Gracey.

“Perimeter LED displays have become a fundamental platform for activating brand partnerships in sport,” he says. “The ability to change that message to make it relevant for different fans around the world is hugely appealing for us and our partners. We were delighted to be able to collaborate with various stakeholders in order to deploy it on this occasion.”

Through the use of this virtual technology, the advertising seen on the LED perimeter boards in the broadcast coverage was completely different in the targeted territories from the messaging displayed to fans in the stadium and across ITV’s domestic coverage and the world feed.

The successful implementation of the virtual feeds was delivered for the FA by domestic-rights holder ITV in partnership with Supponor and stadium-technology specialists ADI. The virtual-LED solution, installed at Elland Road last season, is the product of a partnership in which Supponor’s virtual-advertising replacement is integrated with ADI’s digiBOARD technologies and is now rolling out further across top-tier sports markets.

Commercial rights were managed by UK-based sports-media–production company Interregional Sports Group. ISG secured the rights to deliver the virtual perimeter advertising for the game and commercialized two concurrent virtual feeds, one delivered to the Americas and the other to Asia, Australasia, and parts of Europe.

“Working with Supponor, we delivered two virtual feeds,” says ISG Joint CEO Tony Ragan. “One feed carried advertising specifically focusing on fans in Costa Rica and the Americas, and the other carried adverts of a broader international appeal as a result of teaming up with our sales partner Sportseen.”

“We are technology-agnostic,” he adds. “We look at what is the best solution for a specific rightsholder and match the technology to that requirement and found Supponor’s digital-billboard replacement to be the best technology for this fixture.”

Supponor CEO James Gambrell says the work his company has done with the FA follows a number of significant developments, including approval of the system for use in Germany’s Bundesliga as of next season. For that deal, Supponor has been working with Sportcast, the production provider for Bundesliga.

“They understand technology, the cost structure, and have had a disciplined testing program,” he said during an interview last month at Sportel Summit in Miami. “Bundesliga is a real bellwether in the industry, and other leagues and federations look to them.”

ADI CEO Geraint Williams, whose company is the UK market leader in perimeter-LED technology, says the FA has shown real leadership in its keenness to explore virtual advertising.

“It’s an exciting time for the technology” he adds. “The next 12 months will be a game-changing era that will transform the way clubs, brands, leagues, and federations interact with their audiences.”

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