The Player: Adams looks to link sponsors with sports TV technology

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Sports fans today are spoiled. Thanks to TV technologies from Chicago-based Sportvision, such as the "1st-and-10" yellow line on National Football League telecasts and the "virtual caddy" on Professional Golf Association tour events, fans have a deeper insight when watching the game.

Now Sportvision's CEO, Hank Adams, hopes to extend that beyond simple fan appreciation to a leveraging of marketer sponsorship.

"We're in a marketplace that facilitates product integration," Mr. Adams said, "and yet you see little sponsorship-driven work around our products. That's what I'm really focused on."

Through the company's "in-game branding," marketers have a chance to increase brand exposure and awareness during live action of a sporting event. Sportvision already provides virtual advertising, seen on the backstop behind home plate, during select Fox and ESPN Major League Baseball broadcasts, and Mr. Adams is confident that in-game branding options, which would be incorporated within a graphic enhancement, is not far off.

In fact, Sportvision tried it to some extent in November with the telecast of the PGA Tour's final event, the Tour Championship. FedEx sponsored the graphic "Virtual Caddy" on the telecast, an enhancement that includes illustrations of how well a player is putting within given distance ranges, optimal landing zones on greens and player pointers showing a golfer's exact distance to the pin.

"FedEx sees this as a perfect opportunity to differentiate our brand and increase our awareness with the PGA Tour fan," said Steve Pacheco, director-advertising, FedEx.

Mr. Adams said he will soon have an announcement featuring the integration of a Sportvision enhancement and a marketer sponsorship. For now, he will continue to steer the company down a prudent financial path, saying that Sportvision officially became profitable for the first time in its five-year existence with a strong 2003 fourth quarter.

serving everyone

"It's a tough business," he said. "[The technology] is not cheap to bring to broadcast, so to be able to find a way to have a marketer's storyline inserted is a great way to serve everybody."

After graduating magna cum laude from Colorado University, and with an MBA from Northwestern University, Mr. Adams worked for Peterson Consulting in Chicago and London as a financial consultant. But he parlayed the contacts made during an internship at America Online to start the AOL spin-off Web site Real Fans Sports Network in 1997.

Two years later, he turned that into Chicago-based Ignite Sports, a marketing firm for sports properties and media companies. Last year, he merged Ignite into Sportvision, winner of multiple Sports Emmy awards, and became the CEO in December.

"It's not terribly different from Ignite in that we understand that the market fundamental is to make products and services that add to our client's bottom line," Mr. Adams said. "Our clients are leagues and teams and networks. Fundamental to our thrust in Sportvision is to try and provide products that leverage the ability of marketers to tell their story. It is a twist on the Madison + Vine phenomenon."

Fast Facts

Name: Hank Adams

Title: CEO, Sportvision

Age: 36

Challenge: To integrate sports technology broadcast enhancements with marketer sponsorship.

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