Zap-proof & Virtual Advertising Examples (mostly sports-related)

In my Sports, Media, & Society class I spend a couple days working through a specific chapter by Robert V. Bellamy, Jr. from the Handbook of Sports and Media. The author identifies eight “factors” behind the ubiquity of sports content on TV. As he explains, “In many ways, sports are a key exemplar of the programming perceived as necessary to the continuing growth of television both domestically and around the world.”

One of Bellamy’s eight factors is the “zap-proof factor.” So the argument goes, contemporary media consumers are armed with ad-avoidance technologies like DVRs, AdBlock, and even the seemingly simple remote control. In light of this, advertisers and marketers seek to embed commercial messages and branded products within media content in ways that consumers cannot avoid the advertising if they want to consume the media. Sports lend themselves well to this and sports viewers are rather accepting of commercial intrusion.

Of the “factors” that Bellamy discusses, this is the one that students seem to “get” most, which is, perhaps a sign of their awareness of (if not critical orientation toward) product placement. Here are a few of my favorite examples that I like to draw on when we’re discussing this trend. Many of them are sports-centric, but they may be useful for a range of media studies classes…

“Turf TV” —

“We will be able to turn the football field into a giant Jumbotron” . . . A field can display a huge American flag during the national anthem. At halftime a sponsor such as Budweiser could cover the field with its logo. During the game, that virtual first-down marker you see on your TV could now be on the field itself before the ball is snapped. And because sensors beneath the fibers can sense when any given blade’s light is obscured, referees can track the footsteps of a player to determine if he was in-bounds or not.

“NASCAR Nonstop” —

“NASCAR NonStop,” will be used during NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup races on ESPN. Rather than go to a traditional commercial break, ESPN will go to a split screen that shows the race in a small screen in the right corner of the TV, a commercial in a larger screen on the left side of the TV and an advertiser’s logo in the bottom right corner of the screen. The format will be used beginning after the midway point of a race. It will debut Sept. 18 for the Chicagoland Speedway race

WNBA jersey advertising —

If the major professional sports leagues in this country ever inch closer to having sponsor names on jerseys, it will be the Women’s National Basketball Association that nudges them there . . . For the second time in two years the WNBA has signed an agreement to put marketer names on coveted jersey space, this time inking a precedent-setting deal with Boost Mobile that makes the wireless carrier the first league-wide, marquee partner of the WNBA.

“Virtual TV” —

These clips are examples of my work in the field of virtual advertising, where my job is to blend reality and product placement, virtual product placement that is. Some of the examples are collaboration with other artists . . . The clips include ABC’s Monday Night Football Promo (trucks), GMC, The Contender, Will and Grace and CBS/NFL Superbowl Jumbotron.

Virtual Advertising (in stadium) —

Blog post provides some good examples (including images) of virtual advertising.

and, of course… The Onion:

Product Placement Mars Otherwise Exciting Super Bowl,1289/

NFL Players Under Contract To Constantly Mention ‘The Event’ During Sunday Night Football,18157/

Great Game, Sport, Civilization Ruined By Speaking Of Phrase ‘This Is For All The Tostitos®’,18791/

Real-Life Scene Filled With Product Placement,9937/


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