As European football returns to the fray, rights holders and broadcasters are hunting for ways to compensate for muted atmosphere and revenue losses due to the absence of fans. State-of-the-art virtual technology holds the key.
Where better to pilot Infront’s 4K-ready, “virtual atmosphere” solution than the Coppa Italia final? It's a great opportunity to help our partners and to improve the experience for fans at home.
Infront helping its partners navigate “ghost games”
Infront strives to be close to rights holders and to serve them with a 360 degree approach. We have an emergency due to coronavirus, and we’ve come up with a solution that’s flexible enough to help rights holders in various ways: as a marketing tool and as a new way to engage with fans at home.
Innovative approach to the Coppa Italia pilot
We replaced empty stands with an animated choreography of supporters - you don’t see people’s faces, you see them holding cards to create a collective image. We had a playlist - club logos and colours, the Italian flag, and sponsors. From a creative standpoint, it will be a “learning by doing” process. There will be an evolution in the next few months, and that will also reflect supporters’ reactions to, and appreciation of, the technology.
Virtual overlay technology improving fan experience
It is completely flexible in terms of what you can show and the interactions you can create - it can be a texture, a static image, an animation or something interactive. You can place live messages from a club’s Twitter account. You can live stream from the Instagram account of a club legend, picking up one supporter and showing their live reactions during the match. You could stream a multi-person Zoom call with 200 supporters from home, and overlay that onto the empty stands.
This will be a good test in terms of how far virtual overlay can be used as a marketing tool and how far it can be used as a communications tool. There is obviously room to monetise it, but we don’t just see this as a monetisation tool. It could be a blend - sponsor logos followed by an institutional message, for example. It’s a huge area which we can use to create a new way to interact with the audience at home - branding, institutional messaging, live statistics and social network feeds.
Using virtual technology to mitigate financial losses due to the pandemic
Clubs will soon be asking for the unilateral implementation of this technology for home games. With club revenues struggling in areas such as ticketing, it is obviously pushing them to think outside of the box.
The dawn of mainstream adoption of virtual overlay technologies
Sometimes, you are forced to use innovative technology that you would not normally adopt so quickly. When you start using ground breaking technologies and get used to them, even for a short period, you never look back. This new trend is accelerating the process of building virtual platforms – enhanced virtual technology systems that can overlay not just perimeter boards, but also different surfaces in the stadium, all integrated at one source.