Academic journal article International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

Virtual Advertising in Sports Events: Does It Really Work?

Academic journal article International Journal of Sports Marketing & Sponsorship

Virtual Advertising in Sports Events: Does It Really Work?

Article excerpt

Executive summary

Virtual advertising is a technology that allows digitised superimposition of images (i.e. advertising signage) into a television broadcast (Cianfrone et al, 2006; Pyun & Kim, 2004). Little has been known about the effects of this new form of advertising on potential customers, and this paper serves as an exploratory study to deliver more insights into the effectiveness of virtual advertising.

We hypothesised that virtual advertising is recognised as such by the recipients. Furthermore, we tried to find out what factors influence the effectiveness of virtual advertising. Variables which can be assumed to influence the measured effectiveness are brand awareness, duration of exposure and frequency of exposure (Tellis, 1997; Longman, 1997; Pieters & Bijmolt, 1997; Turley & Shannon, 2000; Sander, 2004). The impact of these variables was also measured for conventional advertising. We also looked at the role of attitudes towards advertising in general as well as attitudes towards virtual advertising. We hypothesised a positive correlation between attitude towards advertising in general and attitude towards virtual advertising. Our stimulus for this study was an 18-minute video clip from a televised soccer match. Research participants (n = 142) were students of a German university.

The findings indicate that most of the respondents recognised virtual advertising. Our model gives an excellent explanation for the effect of the variables (brand awareness, duration of exposure and frequency of exposure) affecting the respondents' recall performance. The frequency of exposure appears here as the key explanatory variable.

Finally, we compared the participants' attitudes towards advertising in general with their attitudes towards virtual advertising. We found a highly significant and positive correlation.

In conclusion, this investigation provides fundamental data for further research on consumer responses to virtual advertising in sports broadcasts. However, there is only a little conclusive evidence regarding the effectiveness of different kinds of virtual advertising (e.g. 3D animation, animated virtual advertising) so far. More effort has to be made in this direction.


Virtual advertising has been in use in the U.S. since the mid 1990s, frequently during sports events (e.g. soccer, baseball, basketball). In Europe, especially due to restrictive regulations, virtual advertising has not so farbeen used very often.

Virtual advertising can be defined as the insertion of brands, products, trademarks, logos, slogans and 3D animations by means of digital, computer-supported television signal processing (Cianfrone et al, 2006). This involves overlaying an advertisement into a space in the telecast--either over the top of existing ground signage or billboards or in a 'free space' on the field of play or in the crowd (Turner & Cusumano, 2000). The advertising is therefore only visible to the television viewer--i.e. the people in the stadium cannot see the imposed image.

The advantages of virtual advertising over traditional advertising are evident. Virtual advertising allows the multiple sale of existing advertising space, and during international sports events in particular, advertisements can be delivered in country-specific broadcasts. Hence, advertising during major international sports events becomes interesting not only for worldwide operating firms, but also for those acting solely at a national level.

The implementation of this technology can be differentiated even within a country, at a local or regional level. This permits a targeted group-specific use by tailoring advertisements according to regional consumers' buying habits and brand preferences. Moreover, it allows country-specific advertising regulations to be taken into consideration (e.g. for alcoholic beverages or tobacco products). In addition to the existing advertising, it facilitates the use of new advertising space within a certain sports event. …

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