Virtual reality, virtual desktop, virtual assistant, virtual happy hour. Despite the recent proliferation of all things virtual, the technology behind virtual advertising has actually been around for decades. And those years have enabled the technology to continually make leaps in terms of quality and reliability, while also creating a virtually-perfect marketing monetization tool.

For the sports industry in particular, virtual advertising offers a lucrative (and enduring) opportunity for both sponsor brands and rights holders.

Multiply the marketing power of in-venue signage

The most common application for virtual advertising is on LED or static perimeter boards, which surround the field for sports such as football, ice hockey, basketball, baseball or tennis. Traditionally, these perimeter boards allow sponsor brands to build brand recognition and reach viewers in a passive way by displaying short advertising messages directly behind the field of play.

But considering the potential reach of those advertisements through broadcasting and the fact that there are limited fans on-site these days anyway, the viewing audience can span the globe. Which sounds great in theory, but focusing on a more targeted audience is always going to produce a better ROI than just throwing your message out to “sports fans of the world”.

Virtual advertising allows an alternative advertising message to be displayed during broadcast. The new ad is virtually inserted in the broadcast feed in such a precise manner that the television audience has no idea that they are seeing something different than the fans on-site. Kind of like those virtual Zoom backgrounds, but exponentially more realistic.

The new advert shows up only to the targeted audience and the virtual technology ensures a clear, reliable image regardless of weather conditions or fancy footwork. If you want the detailed nitty-gritty, keep an eye out for our blog explaining the technical aspects of a virtual advertising solution coming soon.

Attract local fans with a localised message

What is the value in showing a Chinese-language advertisement to a German-speaking sports fan? Or vice versa? The marketing message that resonates the most will be the one written in local language and promoting a locally-available product or service. If not, your in-venue signage just becomes (expensive) background decor.

For sponsor brands, using virtual advertising means eliminating the need to choose which audience to target. Instead, you can target all of them (or as many as your budget allows). For example, you could produce four different versions of perimeter board ads, which are displayed virtually to four different geographical audiences simultaneously. A La Liga football match broadcast in Spain shows your product sold in that region, while that same match broadcast in the UK shows a more locally-relevant alternative. Now you are actually targeting your audience effectively.

Likewise, if you’re a local brand, with a smaller budget, virtual advertising makes buying LED perimeter board advertising space a viable option. Instead of investing big marketing-dollars in global media exposure, you can have your ad shown to a specific geographic location, at a more reasonable price.

This ability to display different products or messages in the broadcast feeds also provides brands with a compelling way to comply with local blocking regulations, but still reach certain markets. In countries where there are regulatory bans on the physical display of advertising for product categories like sports betting, tobacco or alcohol, brands could still show this banned product in the virtual feed of audiences in designated regions. In-venue, the banned product is nowhere to be seen, thus meeting all regulations, but it is visible in regions where it is allowed.

Revenue stream hack for rights holders

Rights holders benefit from offering virtual advertising space too. Traditionally a rights holder sold slots of 15 or 30 seconds to one brand. With virtual advertising technology in place, that same spot could be sold a second time to another brand in a different geographical region. Depending on the number of broadcast feeds/streams available, a rights holder can create unlimited packages and options to suit any size brand or budget. One revenue stream now becomes many.

In fact, pretty much every stakeholder benefits from virtual advertising. For broadcasters, the ability to reach an audience with a tailored product increases the value of a TV broadcast. Likewise, the different audience segments watching the broadcast are consuming marketing messages that are actually of relevance to their location.

Decades of data means decades of insights and improvements

Unlike most newcomers offering virtual advertising solutions, Supponor has been focused on building and enhancing the technology for 20 years – with 10 of those years focused on commercial deployment. We’re not just pioneers in virtual advertising, we’re pretty much leading the pack. In fact, our award-winning technology is approved for all conditions. That means regardless if the sports event is played during the night or day, under floodlights, bright sun or shade, rain or fog, you will always get a realistic, reliable solution.

By testing and live producing virtual applications across hundreds of events, we have accumulated an unmatched amount of data and experience to train and develop existing and new software components more successfully than any other player in the industry. Without decades of data, even the most sophisticated software will never be able to feed its system with the necessary information to perform as rapidly and accurately as ours. Additionally, the revenues from 10 years of commercial deployment have allowed us to reinvest in research and development longer and more intensely – ensuring clients have the most advanced solution available.

If you’re interested in hearing more about how virtual advertising could boost your business, give us a call.

+44 203 423 6521

Massimo Magrì

EU Commercial Officer | Supponor