Technology: ANC Sports makes play for stadium ads

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A sports-marketing firm underdog wants to shake up its competition with a new technology for in-arena and stadium advertising.

ANC Sports Enterprises, Purchase, N.Y., which pioneered rotational signage in the early 1990s that is now commonplace at basketball games and behind the plate at baseball games, is duking it out with industry leader Daktronics for its share of the LED display market.

Light emitting diode systems are the newest "must haves" in venues across the country for their ability to produce video-quality images, a far cry from traditional stationary ads. Of the 100-plus teams, arenas and stadiums ANC services, 12 already have installed the LED system.

"Teams and advertisers were telling us they wanted to change their images, but it was time-consuming to change all the signs they might have had in a building. They wanted to do it electronically," said Jerry Cifarelli, ANC's president. "That's how the technology came about. And it's changed how they market and sell. Now, they're not buying a sign, they're buying a moment."

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Case in point: three years ago, DaimlerChrysler's Chrysler Group had a static ad at the Ice Palace in Tampa, Fla., home of the National Hockey League's Tampa Bay Lightning. Last year, after the Ice Palace purchased an LED display system from ANC, Chrysler's ad featured an animated Grand Cherokee pulling a message quoting a new lease offering in the local Tampa Bay area.

"In the minds of the advertiser, we have now given them a vehicle where they can impact sales at retail," said Michael Yormark, Ice Palace senior VP-sales and marketing. "In today's economy, with the challenge everybody has, it's no longer about branding. It's about results."

ANC began six years ago with three employees and revenue that its executives could count in a piggy bank. It now has offices in three cities and last year had $20 million in sales. But that pales in comparison to South Dakota-based Daktronics' $155 million in 2001 sales. Daktronics is best known for manufacturing stadium scoreboards as well as video signage for retail stores, casinos, airports, train and bus terminals. Both ANC and Daktronics are now fighting to control the LED market.

The systems cost about $1 million to install, but Mr. Yormark believes it's worth it. "We have competition in the Tampa Bay area," he said of the area's professional baseball and football teams. "We needed to create what I call a point of difference and that's what this does."

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