Virtual Ads Over The Plate At World Series

Batting behind Barry Bonds– and pitching for attention – will be a handful of companies whose ads will appear behind home plate at the World Series using virtual advertising technology.

It’s the second year the virtual advertising will appear at the World Series. The first game of the best of seven series between the San Francisco Giants and Anaheim Angels will begin at 7:30 p.m. Saturday on FOX.

There’s nothing unusual about ads appearing behind home plate at baseball games. The ads, even ones that rotate among sponsors between innings or batters, appear on the television broadcasts of every Major League Baseball game. The virtual ads, using digital technology developed by Princeton Video Image, have appeared this year on FOX’s NFL shows and on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball.

The spots have been offered as extras – at no additional cost – to Major League Baseball’s key sponsors and will also include Major League Baseball spots and promos for FOX’s upcoming fall season. Advertisers include MasterCard, John Hancock, Budweiser, Pepsi and Gillette.

“Virtual signage is a valuable enhancement to our sponsors. We’re happy to make this available,” said Tim Brosnan, executive vice president of Major League Baseball.

A separate virtual ad will appear every half-inning. Those companies that are scheduled will appear at least one half-inning throughout the World Series, which will run at least four games through midweek and could last seven games into next weekend.

“You’ll see ads for FOX programming and advertisers just like what fans see behind home plate at almost every regular season game during the year,” said Lou D’Ermilio, senior vice president for media relations at FOX in New York. The virtual ads for FOX will include “Boston Public,” “Girlsclub,” “24,” “Bernie Mac,” “The Simpsons” and “Malcolm in the Middle.”

“It’s not a substitute for commercials, which deliver a message. But that type of exposure, while the game is actually taking place, is extremely valuable,” said D’Ermilio.

D’Ermilio said this year’s virtual ads will be smaller than the ones that appeared during the first two games of last year’s World Series. He said developers made this year’s signs similar to what’s already available in real form.

“We’re trying to make the signage less obtrusive than last year and more like what the fans are used to,” he said.

Pepsi’s virtual ads will be displayed during two half innings at each game at Edison Field in Anaheim and, unlike other firms, not at Pac Bell Park in San Francisco. Pac Bell is locked up by Coca-Cola Co. There will be at least two games in Anaheim, Saturday and Sunday nights, and up to two others if the World Series lasts beyond five games.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity. It’s great exposure. As you know, an inning can last up to 15 minutes and your product message is front and center there the whole time,” said Bart Casabona, spokesman for Pepsi Co.

The virtual ad technology has been employed on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball for three years but it’s the first time Princeton Video Image has done the World Series for FOX, said co-CEO David Sitt. Sitt said the technology allows MLB to view separate messages, one for the domestic World Series audience on FOX and another for the international audience. The international audience will see the Major League Baseball logo, he said.

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