Santiago Bernabéu Stadium before Real Madrid’s UEFA Champions League game against Borussia Dortmund in December 2017. (Getty Images)

Marketer will sell digital overlay ads for stadium videoboards, pursue regional sponsors

IMG will manage Real Madrid’s digital overlay advertising on perimeter videoboards at the club’s Santiago Bernabéu stadium under an agreement announced Wednesday. The deal also gives IMG the role of developing regional partnerships for the club, a soccer powerhouse in Spain’s La Liga, in North America and Asia.

The digital overlay strategy allows Real Madrid, using technology from AIM Sport, to customize the LED boards’ advertising for individual broadcast regions, opening up the potential for brands to tailor messages to different geographic audiences. 

“You are creating this virtual advertising for a specific market,” said Adolfo Bara, senior vice president and managing director of football events at IMG, a subsidiary of Endeavor, a global entertainment, sports and content company. “You need to have enough advertisers in that specific market to make it worth it.” 

IMG began work on the effort before the announcement and has about a dozen regional advertisers for feeds in North America and Asia. 

The digital overlay technology has been around for about five years, run by the top-tier soccer leagues in Spain, Italy and Germany. Bara said that La Liga was the first to introduce the technology in soccer. The IMG deal with Real Madrid signifies a major step in the technology, allowing a specific club to direct the advertising in its stadium to specific regions. 

Fans at 81,044-capacity Santiago Bernabéu and on the Spanish television broadcast will see one advertiser, but the AIM Sports technology allows the broadcast feeds in other regions to show region-specific advertising. So far, Real Madrid has instituted the technology in four feeds, but if the advertising demand warrants the high production costs, Bara said, it can expand to eight to 10 feeds. 

As part of the deal, IMG’s deal with Real Madrid is twofold, one deal for the digital overlay advertising globally and the second to develop regional sponsorship partners in North America and Asia. Bara said that while the deals with the club are separate, the expectation is that regional sponsors will also become global advertisers. IMG will work with London-based sports marketing agency Project11 to sell the virtual advertising. 

The digital overlay provides teams with new avenues to enter different markets, Bara said. “Real Madrid has been focusing on global sponsors mainly,” he said. “Now they want to increase their revenues and have decided to open that up to regional sponsors. Beyond just offering the traditional assets, in the case of Real Madrid, they have an additional asset (of a regional digital overlay). In North America, not only do you have access to traditional assets, you can have your brand on the field of play.” 

Bara said that while this is the first example of selling digital overlays for a specific club, IMG is looking for other European soccer clubs that might be interested in something similar. The only European league that wouldn’t allow this style of club-specific selling based on their league makeup is the English Premier League, Bara said, but that still leaves clubs in Italy, Germany, France and the Netherlands as possibilities.