The big football business is reaching a new level with virtual advertising boards, even at a major continental tournament. Television and streaming viewers of the European Championships are seeing some tailor-made content that differs from that in the stadium.

The virtual advertising perimeters in football, which UEFA also initiated during the current European Championship, affect three countries: Germany, the USA and China.

However, the technology is not new, as it has been used in internationally broadcast live Bundesliga games since 2018 and is also used in ice hockey and Formula 1.

Virtual advertising in football: What’s behind it

The virtual advertising perimeter is a European Championship premiere. This is the first time that the European football association UEFA has used variable advertising at a major tournament that is specifically aimed at the TV and streaming audience.

The so-called “Virtual Board Replacement” versions are intended to generate additional advertising revenue and must be labeled with the note “The program contains virtual advertising.” In Germany, this affects ARD, ZDF, RTL and Magenta TV.

How does the technology work?

The virtual advertising boards are displayed in the form of fades, independent of the platform and with the help of artificial intelligence (AI). Separate cameras or trained human hands are not necessary because the AI ​​functions as software.

The software-based solution has been permitted since 2022. But virtual advertising boards have been around in football for much longer. Do you remember the pay-TV channel Premiere? It is said that even then there was virtual advertising in the League Cup – almost twenty years ago.

“Dedicated advertising boards, camera setups or specific personnel in the stadium” are no longer necessary, according to the German Football League (DFL). Instead, the advertising would be “fully implemented from the central production location where the DFL produces the international broadcast signals for all Bundesliga games.”

Advertising boards swallow football players

The fact that virtual advertising boards in football are not yet 100 percent mature is shown by a funny scene from the game between Slovakia and Belgium, when Milan Skriniar, captain of the Slovakian team, disappears in the Lidl advertisement.

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