SYDNEY: The advent of both temporary and permanent in-stadium digital signage is opening up new opportunities for advertisers, with agencies yet to establish the best way of using them without unnecessary distraction.

The stadium marketplace in Australia differs from many other parts of the world in that "sports codes and clubs [and] teams do not have 100% ownership" of venues, according to Simon Ryan, chief executive of Dentsu Aegis Network in Australia and New Zealand.

"Previously, this made it difficult for clubs to 'dress' or 'theme' the stadium for fans," he told the Sydney Morning Herald.

"The introduction of LED, in bowl, but equally on stadia fascia, has allowed the sports (in this case hirers of venues) to theme the venue to their particular team or sport – significantly enhancing the experience for the fans."

While innovative pre- and post-game creative is possible – one stadium went dark except for a plane flying around on the horizontal screens – agencies are having to tread a fine line during matches between making a brand visible and distracting from the action on the pitch.

One way to ensure having a viewer's attention is to buy space for key events during a game when audience focus is at its greatest – such as the last few runs before a batsman reaches a century – and which may cost four times as much.

These buys are currently agreed before the game, but outdoor advertising business QMS Media is taking this a step further, developing dynamic auctions where brands can bid to be in the background at crucial moments.

It is also looking to sell week to week advertising so that brands can target all the games in a particular sport for a limited period.

Barclay Nettlefold, chief executive of QMS Media, believes that digital sports signage is priced too cheaply and is keen to quantify its effectiveness. But as data on this sector is patchy – in-stadium advertising is not counted in figures for the OOH category collected by the Outdoor Media Association – that is not a straightforward process

As sports start to exploit digital signage – Cricket Australia is looking at including the value of digital signs in its next round of broadcast rights, for example – that situation may change.

Data sourced from Sydney Morning Herald; additional content by WARC staff