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.
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.
Last month 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...
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