MLB goes virtual as ad replacement hits the ballpark

Following its use in this season’s NHL, virtual replacement advertising is being trialled in Major League Baseball as North American sport continues to experiment with new forms of sponsorship technology.

So what is virtual replacement ad tech and what opportunities does it present? Let’s take a look.

What’s virtual replacement advertising?

Virtual replacement advertising is the process of swapping out the physical advertising that can be seen in a sports venue with digital alternatives. The in-venue signage can still be seen by fans attending the game, but anyone watching at home sees the replacement ads.

What did MLB do with their virtual ads?

Over May and into June, MLB has been conducting a limited-run experiment and used virtual replacement ads on only a handful of advertising assets: home plate and mound. The testing was carried out on regional sports network RSN broadcasts, delivered through MLB.tv. Live-linear broadcasts were not used for testing.

To give an example (which you can see along with many others below), ads for Valley Chevvy Dealers, Casino Arizona and Absolut Vodka (home plate) and Avnet (mound) were seen in-venue at Chase Field when Boston Red Sox visited Arizona Diamondbacks on May 26th. Viewers of MLB.tv feeds, however, saw something different: an ad for Casamigos Tequila. 

Use the slider and arrows in the visualisation below to see the changes across each example.

How is this different to existing ad tech used in MLB?

While MLB already uses virtual advertisement, this is limited to national broadcast games, and uses green-screen technology. In those instances, there was no existing in-venue adverted being replaced.

What are the challenges and benefits of this tech?

As with any new technology, the tests experienced a few minor issues, with some social media users noting that the ball ‘disappeared’ into the signage when being pitched.

However, such incidents have been few and far between. Like the NHL’s DEDs, MLB’s new ad tech represents a huge opportunity for rightsowners to drive more revenue through their ad units and sponsoring brands to target audiences with more precision.

We’re sure to see further experiments, both in MLB and beyond, as virtual replacement ad technology expands and sport taps into its huge potential.

DataPOWA specialises in how broadcast innovation affects social media exposures for sponsors and has a library, along with accompanying insight, for every advertiser, in every half-inning, at every game in the 2023 MLB season so far. Get in touch to find out more.