Olympic audiences get adverts to match

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Sponsorship and advertising revenue from major sporting events could be dramatically enhanced by a technological leap that allows television audiences in different countries to see a variety of messages from stadium perimeter hoardings.

The computer technology, to be demonstrated for the first time when the Olympic stadium at Atlanta is inaugurated during a special athletics meeting in May, enables the viewer to see the same events with contrasting advertising backdrops.

The development will give companies such as car manufacturers, with brands of products unique to a particular country, the opportunity to target advertising towards the relevant market.

It will also make it possible for international firms to advertise their products in different languages, or avoid countries that impose restrictions on items such as alcohol. Revenue could also be boosted by altering the message during the course of an event.

The technology was initially developed by Orad, the Israeli defence electronics company, for military purposes.

Commercially, the technology enables the computer to memorise visual pictures of the stadium so that when the camera sees the relevant hoarding it can superimpose the correct advertising background. The recomposed pictures are then beamed to the right country.

Orad and ISL, a leading sports promotion agency, have formed a Netherlands- based joint venture, Imagdine, to market the product. Sports sponsorship is presently worth around pounds 7bn, while worldwide event-related advertising is over pounds 90bn.

The only rival is the Epsis system, developed by a Paris-baseddefence and multimedia group. It can only cope at present with unobstructed hoardings.