Targeting new revenue: Sports tech firms seek ad sponsors

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The two companies most lauded for the vibrant technological breakthroughs on sports TV broadcasts are expanding their respective business models in search of new revenue streams, most notably advertising sponsorships.

Sportvision and Princeton Video Imaging have entered into conversations with top sports advertising brands, seeking sponsorship deals for their on-screen products.

brand attachments

Sportvision invented the virtual 1st and Ten Line, the yellow stripe seen in football telecasts of National Football League and NCAA games, indicating where a team needs to get for a first down, and which appears on Fox, ABC and ESPN. It also does the `K'-Zone baseball strike zone for ESPN and Racef/x for Nascar telecasts on Fox and NBC. Princeton Video Imaging does the 1st Down Line for CBS and virtual advertising with Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer. Both companies believe their technological advances are ready for brand attachments.

"We were always so focused on being a media-service company," said Princeton Video Imaging Co-CEO David Sitt. "But, frankly, there isn't enough money in the budget to be solely a technology company because technology is so expensive."

Mr. Sitt and Bill Squadron, Sportvision's CEO, would only say the companies they've contacted are already major sports advertisers.

"Most of the brands we're talking about don't need additional exposure," said Robert Mazzucchelli, Sportvision's chief marketing officer. "What they really want to do is trigger the consumer to behave in a certain way, ideally buying more product or going to their store or Web site."

Said Wally Heyward, CEO of Bcom3 Group's Relay Sports and Event Marketing, Chicago: "From my standpoint, anything we can do to get our client's brands into the action is where it's all basically headed."

But as both Messrs. Sitt and Squadron note, selling sponsorships means coordinating between their companies, the brands, the leagues and the networks.

While brands and logos are well placed and well seen at hockey and basketball games, it's doubtful the NFL will show much enthusiasm for any more on-screen sponsors. According to the seven-year TV rights pact signed in 1998, the league rid itself of in-game sponsors and promos, such as the Aflac Trivia Question.

Fast Facts

Company: Sportvision

On Screen Products: 1st and Ten Line (football); K-zone (baseball); Racef/x (Nascar)

Company: Princeton Video Imaging

On Screen Products: 1st Down Line; virtual advertising

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