Virtual Advertising In Sports



Virtual Advertising in sports has become a new hot commodity in the wide world of advertising. Virtual advertising is a new sleek way to insert advertisements during the live television broadcast. Virtual advertising uses digital image manipulation to insert ads and logos into live television broadcasts. The technology allows companies and advertisers to insert ads that are seen by the viewers watching at home but the image remains unseen to the audience at the live venue. The technology is clever; the image appears as if it’s painted on the field or sketched in the wall but the players seem to move right in front of them without any effort or any destruction to the advertisement. From the late 1990’s when the first use of the technology was seen to the present day, the technology and its application into sports venues has become increasingly popular among companies and advertisers looking for a sleek new way to market their product.


The futuristic technology was developed and patented by Princeton Video Imaging (PVI) of Lawrenceville, New Jersey, the virtual technology is becoming well known in the sports venues. The technology has been used on and in, billboards, playing fields and race tracks in more than 1,000 live telecasts worldwide, including broadcasts of Major League Baseball, National League Football, professional soccer, motor sports and thoroughbred horseracing. During the 1999 Super Bowl, advertisers including General Motors, Pfizer, National Car Rental, Pepsi, Nokia, Ruffles, Unilever and Corona used PVI's system to insert virtual ads in feeds to selected countries. 1993 Princeton Video Imaging of Lawrenceville, New Jersey, is granted a patent to place advertising and electronic images into live and pre-recorded TV programming. A brief time Line of the technologies first start:
-1993 Princeton Video Imaging of Lawrenceville, New Jersey, is granted a patent to place advertising and electronic images into live and pre-recorded TV programming
-1996 The San Francisco Giants starts using virtual signage in its football game broadcasts.
-1998 The San Francisco Giants sells out all virtual spots during a game for the first time.

Here is a short brief video further explaining Virtual Advertisements
Virtual TV Information

Reasons for using Virtual Ads in Sports

For advertisers, virtual signs offer an array of benefits -- including state-of-the-art graphics and a way to hold a viewer's attention during key plays, rather than waiting for commercial breaks. They are also cost-effective. A half-inning of national exposure can run about $20,000, or roughly the same as a 30-second conventional commercial. (Power, 1998 pg.B1) The technology is also very effective in sports venues because the advertisement isn’t really there. The image is only seen by the viewer at home and not by the athletes in action or by the people sitting in the stands. It’s a win win situation for advertisers because their able to reach the viewers at home with their message. And the message doesn’t interrupt the experience for the athletes and fans that are actually at the venue. Also the technology allows advertisers to target their ads regionally. Advertisers can display images during one game is a specific region and display a different image in the same game but different region.

Reach and Frequency

Virtual advertising in sports has an exceedingly well reach. For example the number one most watched sporting event and most watched T.V. show ever, the Super Bowl, had 106.5 million viewers according to Neilsen media. The virtual ads can appear during the game to viewers watching the broadcast. Also the advertisers can place different ads during the same time in different regional and local broadcasts. With 106.5 million viewers your messages can reach a large audience in a short amount of time. With this new technology advertisers can repeat specific messages to certain target audiences to maximize the frequency of certain messages. Also as stated before the purchasing of this open advertising space is cost efficient and easy on the pockets.

Potential risks of Technology

The new virtual technology is a great way to put specific messages into a plethora of advertising space only allocated by the length of a specific broadcast but this could be damaging to some. For example writer Robert S. Reich breaks down the potential risks of this technology into five groups, he writes,”
For the viewer: No one can seriously believe viewers appreciated what can best be described as an unprecedented and unwarranted intrusion of electronic commercial messages. The new virtual ads didn't even have the meager justification of providing on-screen scores or updates during match competition. Surely being forced to watch electronic messages during play may be all it takes to make even die-hard fans turn off their sets.
2) For the purists: By analogy, virtual ads become even more reprehensible for some viewers than colorizing classic movies. Advocates of the colorizing cite the greater potential audience for colorized versions of classic movies and even argue that colorization process allows today's audiences to overcome the limits of yesterday's technology. But what conceivable justification can be made for electronically imposing a commercial message in the field of play? Perhaps the only reason for virtual ads is a misguided belief that any TV exposure is valuable, coupled with the uncritical use of quantitative analysis techniques, which apply a value-per-minute of TV exposure based on number of viewers.
3) For event sponsors: With the advent of virtual ads, sponsors-who often spend six- and seven-figure sums to subsidize events, players' salaries and ticket prices-will have to rethink their strategies. At best, event sponsors' on-site signs are seen only a small fraction of the time and certainly not in as prime a location as the virtual ads. Now event sponsors also will need to be concerned that broadcasters may use virtual ads to obliterate on-site signs and replace them with virtual ads for other advertisers.
4) For TV advertisers: Virtual ads pose a threat to TV advertisers as well. With a limited number of spots available on a broadcast of a sports event, advertisers have some measure of exclusivity. With virtual ads, the potential amount of ad time and number of advertisers will be far greater, limited only by the duration of the telecast. As a result, the value of customary TV spots will plummet. Aside from the disagreeable aspect of excessive commercial clutter, TV advertisers-like the sponsors-may also suffer from declining audiences and reduced exclusivity.
5)For the broadcasters: Virtual ads may result in one or more of the following: the loss of revenue-which may or may not be offset by virtual ad revenue-from the sale of spots; higher rights fees to prime sports events to offset reduced receipts from on-site signs; diminished audiences; increased interest in pay cable and pay-for-view sports events in order to view events without electronic signage; potential Federal Communications Commission problems regarding permitted number of commercial messages per hour, as well as disclosure of commercial payments; and the possibility of increased governmental regulation.”

Advertisers & Companies Using the Technology

Already the use of the virtual advertisements in sports have been increasing many sports are adopting the new technology. Sports already using the technology are Major League Baseball, National Football League, Professional tennis and volleyball, Professional motor sports, professional ice skating, National Hockey league and the list goes on and on. ESPN used virtual advertising in a inter league game between the Yankees and the Mets on June 28, 1998-one of the ads was for Disney’s movie Armageddon. Also ESPN used its broadcast time to use virtual ads in the Brickyard 400 motor race in Indianapolis, August of 2009 and displayed
logos for Pennzoil, Chevrolet, Miller Beer and NAPA. Since the late 1990’s many companies and brands have begun to use the new technology because it is cost efficient and easily suitable for locating target audiences. Since the ads are done virtually the live broadcast creates an abundance of space only stopped by the length of the broadcast.


Virtual Advertisements can be somewhat confusing when it comes to buying and scheduling a time for your virtual ad to run in a certain sports arena. The space for these advertisements are limitless, you do not have to worry about paying the NFL or NBA for the advertisements because the ads are not really there the broadcasting company NBC or CBS own the space for the advertisements. The Company who wants their ad run during a specific game would ask the broadcasting company to insert an image on television during a specific companies broadcast time. You only have to buy space through the broadcasting company not the sports venue. Scheduling these advertisements can be confusing because you’re not buying a commercial time slot you merely inserting images that are only seen by the viewers watching at home. Each image is a set price and then it more money to have your image displayed numerous times during the game. The scheduling length is as long as it takes to finish the game.


The virtual technology is a great emerging media even though the first glimpses of the technology were seen in the late 1990’s advertisers at first were hesitant. As the technology became more cost efficient the realization of this new technology began to open a door to unlimited possibilities. Advertisers soon adopted it as another vehicle for spreading the message. The advertising space is abundant and is cost efficient. To the advertisers this jump in technology will usher in a new era of virtual advertisements throughout international sports venues and events.

More pictures od virtual ads in sports


Virtual technology that takes ads further in sportnig events, Reid, Alasdair. Campaign.Teddington:July 25, 1997 pg. 16
Virtual advertising becomes reality ,Lawrence,Robyn.Campaign. Teddington: July 2 1999. Pg. 26
The Virtual Ad: On TV you see it, at games you don’t, Power, William, Wall Street Journal( easter edition) New york, NY jul.30, 1998
Super Bowl is most watched TV show ever, Bauder, David, Ap television writer. Feb. 2010
Virtual Ads a loosing Propostion, Reich, Robert S. Advertising Age. Chicago: Nov. 4 1996. Vol 67, iss 45 p.34