Stadium & Arena Signage: Sporting New Signs to Level Advertising on the Playing Field
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Stadium & Arena Signage

Sporting New Signs to Level Advertising on the Playing Field

By Louis Brill

As sport fans settle in at their favorite stadiums and arenas, they are apt to notice lots of new signage around the facility, alerting them not only to the advertising for beer & BMWs, but also keeping them informed about other games in play around the country, and as well occasional sports trivia useful as party chatter.

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  • The new generation of electronic sign technologies hanging among stadium walls and halls, includes everything from large format LED screens on scoreboards and stadium facia walls to the smaller indoor LCD and plasma screens that fill out food courts, concession and ticket booth gathering places throughout the sporting venue.

    The additional presence of electronic stadium and arena advertising has developed a new layered approach between the traditional signage of banners and posters and the newer 21st century look of electronic "changeable message systems" now being put in place. Two sport media companies, ANC Sports and Arena Media Network, each representing a unique approach to EDS signage talked about "covering the bases" with their variations electronic sign systems and how they serve advertisers in having opportunities to reach the fans.

    Arena Media Networks (NY,NY) is an EDS media advertising company that specializes in changeable message advertising for sport stadiums and arenas, as explained by company president Tom Kiernan. "We've created the first-ever stadium/arena network of digital signage where we are providing electronic advertising inside of sport and entertainment venues in major markets throughout the United States." Relying on a series of plasma screens positioned at key audience traffic points, AMN's screens tend to be some of the first stadium advertising fans see, even before they enter the stadium. The company offers a completely integrated service to sport facilities which includes a network of electronic signs, sales support, content creation and system management of each stadium's network.

    Minneapolis Target Center shows off its center hung score board featuring four 10mm pitch Smartvision video screens (8.9 feet tall by 15.4 feet wide), once for each section of audience facing scoreboard. In the background, various advertising streams across the concourse facia.
    photo credit: ANC SPORTS

    Whereas most stadiums have excellent print advertising coverage followed with LED video and facia screen setups, interior electronic advertising is the latest opportunity to "cover a lot of bases" within a stadium/arena environment. Offering state-of-the-art media presentation technology, Arena Media Networks installs large high-definition flat-panel displays within arenas and uses them to run full-motion video programming with CD-quality sound and to provide advertising, sports and team information including live sports scores and more during games and other events.

    Minneapolis Target Center's ANC Sports Smartvision facia signage (20 mm pitch) incorporates a continuing flow of sports information including advertising plus in-game statistics and out of town scores keeping the fans updated up-to-the-minute with latest sports activities.
    photo credit: ANC SPORTS

    As new television formats emerge and people find their entertainment choices becoming more diversified, in many cases, the attention being paid to television advertising is becoming less effective as less people are watching network television. "Major national advertisers are looking for new ways to reach their target audience without sacrificing the impact of sound and motion that television provides," said Art Williams, co-founder and co-CEO, Arena Media Networks. "At the same time, marketers are eager to pay a premium to reach the upscale young male audience that has given rise to networks like ESPN."

    When Arena Media network introduces its sign system to a new stadium client, they do so by encountering an already existing advertising "forest" of print signage, banners, rotational signage and LED screens. "We don't see ourselves as competition for the already existing print advertising at the stadiums we start with," stated Kiernan. "We see ourselves complementing the already existing advertising in place with our digital network for real-time promotions. With what we offer, an advertiser can now split their message using print to maintain the branding and use our real-time electronic displays to communicate more current and time-sensitive information such as consumer incentives and time-sensitive information, sales pricing, and the latest interest rates or financial programs. Overall, the display content is balanced between live sport score coverage, news headlines, music trailers, stadium calendars of upcoming events and other relevant information we can present on our network."

    "We offer our advertisers a tremendous flexibility in how they can reach their markets. An advertiser can come in and buy "sign time" from one stadium for one month, or one stadium, for an entire year. Or they can put in the advertising message across our entire network in a similar fashion depending on how long they want to reach out to our audiences."

    Deployment of the electronic display network is pretty inclusive throughout a stadium environment. Once a stadium joins the Arena Media Network, says Kiernan, "Our next step is to determine how many screens will be installed and where they'll be deployed through the stadium. In most instances, it's very obvious that screens will be placed facing high volume audience traffic areas." The prime time for AMN's advertising is anywhere audiences are lining up, from pre-game during box office waits to half-time for food and rest room calls.

    Rotational signage is a mechanical process similar to a 'motorized window shade,' where different segments of the window shade each contain a frame showing off its own advertising spot in place. The system contains up to 30 different spots and during certain parts of the game, will rotate from one sign face to another. Rotational units can be placed courtside or overhead along the facia frontage.
    photo credit: ANC SPORTS

    There's even a little bit of science to deciding locations. "We look at all the transaction sales at cash registers in the building and that gives us a good indication," Kiernan says, "of where people are standing in line the longest and are accounting the most dwell time. These are usually the same locations in most stadiums. Since we have a long line approaching the box office, we'll put up a display with advertising, sport and entertainment information and the people in line usually find it a welcome distraction as compared to staring at the back of somebody's head. We also deploy electronic displays within the main food court areas and likewise where there are escalators connecting floors, we'll display a screen at the top of the escalator area to take advantage of audience traffic in that upwards direction as people head towards their seats."

    The prime location for AMN's advertising is anywhere audiences are lining up, from pre-game during box office waits to half-time for food and rest room calls. EDS screen deployments are usually the same locations in most stadiums. Where ever people are waiting in line, they usually find watching an Arena Media presentation a welcome distraction.
    photo credit: Arena Media Network

    Currently all Arena Media Network displays are 50-inch diagonal plasma screens, though Kiernan has acknowledged that the company is always looking at new kinds of screens and sound systems that will be "noticed" by our viewers and will look good inside the stadiums and arenas. He noted other candidate display technologies include LCD screens and even LED screens.

    The Arena Media Network Operations center is in Atlanta, GA and from a single head-end location supervises all of AMN's display functionality for all stadiums and arenas that are a part of its network. "We distribute the network from our central location to an on-site server inside of each stadium which allows all media to be stored locally. This way there is redundancy in our network and if there's any disconnect from our Internet backbone, each stadium can still run independently and be able to present a continuation of their advertising content. From this site, we provide monitoring and maintenance of the entire network as its distributed to each of our facilities. It lets us know immediately if we loose a screen and we can fix it. We also manage all the network programming from this site and we can program and run each stadium's network to operate during a game. When the stadium goes dark, we end network coverage till the next play or event on-site.

    Initial arenas and stadiums within the network are: FleetCenter (Boston), MCI Center (Washington, D.C.); The American Airlines Center (Dallas); SBC Center, (San Antonio, TX); Conseco Fieldhouse, (Indianapolis); and Dolphin Stadium (Miami, FL).

    photo credit: ANC SPORTS

    In regard to stadium field and courtside electronic display coverage, ANC Sports which is headquartered in Purchase, NY, is one of the leading providers of rotational and LED signage in the United States. Rotational signage is a mechanical process similar to a 'motorized window shade,' where different segments of the window shade each contain a frame showing off its own advertising spot in place. The rotational system can contain up to 30 different spots and during a game, will have this 'window shade' system rotate from one sign face to another. The system is also available with a backlit illumination to increase daylight and evening visibility.

    The company in a joint venture with SACO Technologies (an LED sign manufacturer) also provides large format Smartvision video screens for scoreboards in playing fields and for placement on center hung arena-based scoreboards. LED facia screens are also available for the front edge of the concourse stadium seating areas. ANC SportS LED display screens come in various sizes with a range of outdoor pitches including 10 mm, 12 mm, 15 mm, 18 mm and 30 mm. Indoor pitches include 4 mm, 6 mm, 8 mm and 20 mm screens.

    Currently ANC SportS provides signage systems for more than 100 stadiums and arenas in North America including 14 major League Baseball stadiums, 14 NBA facilities, 9 NFL teams, 9 NHL teams and several collegiate level sport facilities. A few already installed sporting venues include Staples Center (Los Angeles), MCI Center (Washington, D.C.), Fleet Center (Boston) Madison Square Gardens (NY,NY) and Yankee Stadium (Bronx, NY).

    Company president Jerry Cifarelli discussed how ANC Sports becomes involved with its sport clients in an effort to integrate and update the outdoor signage around a playing field venue. "In many cases, the stadiums already have an existing sign program in place at the time ANC Sports becomes the sign provider for our new stadium client. Sometimes we're asked to come in and give a recommendation on how to clean up the look of a stadium in terms of retro fitting something. Many of these stadiums already have several backlit signs in place or they have vinyl banners hanging out all around the stadium.

    When we arrive, we do a sign placement evaluation and will make various recommendations to the stadium on how best to maximize their potential advertising revenue with additional opportunities with rotational and LED signage."

    With the varying advertising sign formats now available between LED displays, rotational sign systems and vinyl banners, advertisers have a lot of different visibility choices in the best way for them to showcase their brand and their products. "In the end, it's all a matter of budget," says Cifarelli, "and how much they can afford, which pretty much defines what's available to them as an advertising platform."

    "Most major stadiums already have a basic LED video look with a display on their scoreboard and a separate electronic message center for game stats. The difference" says Cifarelli, "is that many of these stadiums have older versions of these displays. Much of the existing LED sign technology is constantly being advanced, particularly in the last five years or so."

    "ANC Sports offers these newer displays including rotational signs behind home plate on a baseball field or overhead within a basketball arena. They also provide LED video displays or facia segments on a concourse front wall (long rectangular display ribbons that are mounted in place below the concourse seating areas)," says Cifarelli. "In many cases, a lot of stadiums don't have a facia display installed yet, or they've done a partial facia layout and want to expand it through more of the concourse area."

    "When providing new signage for a sport stadium, we are more like a "full service" company than just a manufacturer of LED and rotational signs. In many instances, our job begins once our signs are installed within the stadium venue. 90% of the time, once ANC Sports has installed the signage, it's our operators and technicians that are running these sign products for each of our stadium clients. In some instances we also get involved in the selling of the advertising content, and even before that, in the content creation of the graphics for either the LED or rotational signs."

    While signage is an important part of a stadium's operation, the stadium's primary function is to offer a playing field with game entertainment for a sport (your choice of sport) competition. While advertising is an additional service that the stadium provides, it also has to be a balance between the fans being able to see the playing field and the signs, particularly electronic and rotational displays not becoming a distraction to fans during game play. In fact, Cifarelli cites that "rotational signs do not automatically scroll during a game competition. During game play, mechanical (and also LED facia signs) are held in a static display position. These signs are actually managed by a live on-site operator who watches the game and animates the signs during "soft" moments of game play. You don't want signs rotating or displaying video advertising in the middle of a baseball game when the pitcher is making a pitch or during a basketball game when the ball is being dribbled across court."

    Digital signage is now becoming a sophisticated advertising platform in its own right as media planners and advertisers provide 'fan enhancement programs,' that, in some cases, are as much of a stadium experience as the game play. For advertisers seeking new ways of reaching a young, mobile audience, it's the best game in town.

    Louis M. Brill is a journalist and consultant for high-tech entertainment and media communications. He can be reached at (415) 664-0694 or lmbrill@earthlink.net

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