Admen have a clever new way to trick sports fans

场边淘金 Hoarding cash-书迷号

WHEN FERNANDO MARÇAL scored a risible own goal in a match against Paris Saint-Germain on February 9th, his Lyon football team’s supporters watching on television screens prayed their eyes had deceived them. And deceive them they did—just not in the way that would answer their prayers. The advertising hoardings they saw around the pitch’s perimeter were not those seen by Lyon fans unlucky enough to witness Mr Marçal’s howler in person at the stadium. The televised versions were conjured up virtually.
在2月9日对阵巴黎圣日耳曼的比赛中,里昂的费尔南多·马萨尔(Fernando Marçal)踢进了一个可笑的乌龙球。在电视上看到这一幕的里昂球迷祈祷自己看到的不是真的。他们看到的确实不是真的,只不过不像他们祈祷的那样。他们看到的球场广告牌和那些不幸在体育场里亲眼目睹马萨尔离奇失误的里昂球迷看到的不一样。电视屏幕上的广告牌是虚拟的。

Virtual advertising works by placing invisible infrared signals in signs to distinguish them from other objects in the foreground. Images can then be superimposed onto them in a live TV broadcast. Viewers in Tianjin might see the logo of a local bank behind the penalty area, while those in Tijuana are tempted by a Mexican beer.

Football clubs are understandably keen. Commercial income, made up mostly of sponsorships and advertising, earned Europe’s top 20 teams €3.6bn ($3.9bn) last year. Allowing companies to tailor their pitch-side messages to specific audiences could boost this by 40%, reckons the boss of one sports-marketing company.

In January Real Madrid appointed IMG, a sports-management company, to sell this unreal estate on its behalf. Teams elsewhere in Europe have begun to use the technology in recent seasons. So, too, have top-flight ice-hockey and basketball leagues in North America.

Tailoring ads to all tastes has limits. Too many sponsors may hurt a team’s brand, says Jean-Paul Petranca of the Boston Consulting Group. Manchester United, which raked in £173m ($224m) in sponsorships last year, has been mocked in the past for endorsing everything from bedding to instant noodles.
定制广告以符合各种口味有其限度。波士顿咨询集团的让-保罗·拜德航卡(Jean-Paul Petranca)认为,赞助商太多可能有损一支球队的品牌形象。曼联去年大赚1.73亿英镑(2.24亿美元)的赞助费,过去该队曾因代言从床上用品到方便面等各种商品而被嘲笑。

Still, virtual hoardings are here to stay. In the future, says James Gambrell, boss of Supponor, a supplier of the technology, sponsors could target an audience based on its demographic profile or the device or platform of choice (owners of Apple’s gadgets are generally better-off than those using Android devices).
尽管如此,虚拟广告牌已被广为接受。虚拟广告技术供应商Supponor的老板詹姆斯·盖姆布瑞尔(James Gambrell)说,将来赞助商可以根据人口特征或者所使用的设备或平台来锁定目标受众(苹果设备的用户通常比安卓设备的用户更富裕)。

For the time being, it can help clubs keep controversial partners while placating an irate public. In February British bookmakers, which bankroll half of the teams in the Premier League, announced that they are considering withdrawing from advertising on the side of the pitch after vocal criticism from anti-gambling campaigners. In France Lovebet, a big gambling company that sponsors Paris Saint-Germain, uses virtual advertising to reach viewers in Asia, where placing bets is legal and popular, but not in Europe, where it is restricted in some markets. This can spare clubs plenty of jurisdictional headaches—if not blushes for blunders like Mr Marçal’s.■