On target: Uniqfeed’s Lukas Gysin on the technology behind virtual advertising

Uniqfeed provides virtual advertising solutions for sports through its software, which works to overlay pitchside boards and create new broadcast revenue streams. Different audience groups can occupy the same space, allowing brands to deliver ever more tailored messages to fans.

On target: Uniqfeed’s Lukas Gysin on the technology behind virtual advertising

Virtual advertising, which utilises onscreen advertising inventory to generate additional revenues, has been making strides of late - most recently, with tech company Supponor’s agreement to provide its services in German soccer’s Bundesliga. Few companies have scored large-scale deployment of their technology across the sports industry, but Uniqfeed believes its light-touch service offers a robust and scalable system for racket sports and says it is on track to develop a full soccer-ready product by 2020.

The Swiss firm has created two entirely software-based solutions to leverage additional advertising space. Its ‘AdApt’ software generates multiple localised feeds out of the world feed – breaking it down, for example, by continent, region or target group. These feeds are then encoded with ‘ManiCode’ to allow the multiple feeds to be distributed with a lower data usage.

The technology allows brands to send target-market specific messages to their customers, or multiple brands from various countries to use the same space. As well as its software, Uniqfeed provides a range of add-ons, including digital carpets, real-time reporting and post-production concepts.

Lukas Gysin (right), chief executive and co-founder of Uniqfeed, says that the company has focused on targeting the sports industry because “the sports market is US$90 billion per year – it’s the obvious and biggest market for our technology”.

“Sports marketing is the most obvious one for us,” he adds, “and it’s always live, which is what we are focused on.”

Currently, Uniqfeed has a partnership with Tennis Australia, the organiser of the year’s opening Grand Slam, the Australian Open. It has also recently showcased its products successfully at a range of tennis, badminton and table tennis events, including at the ATP 500 Swiss Indoors in Basel, the Laver Cup in Prague and the 2018 Badminton Open in Basel.

Gysin explains the firm’s product has been used in predominantly racket sports environments because “the main camera is behind the field so the camera motion from left to right is easier compared to football, basketball and hockey”.

“There you have the camera in the middle of the field,” he explains, “and much more camera motion and zooming. In tennis it’s behind, and for table tennis and badminton, and so it’s completely different.

“It is more challenging with camera motion and zooming in other sports, and this is hard work that still needs to be done. We are optimistic that we can solve this in the immediate future.”

Gysin sees the company creating the “full product” by 2020, when he envisages Uniqfeed being ready to handle the additional camera movements necessary in soccer. The company, at the moment, is focusing “on the main camera, but soon, in the summer, we will have the second camera available”.

We are also totally independent from perimeter boards. For us it doesn’t matter if it’s LED boards or ADI LED boards or static boards. Our solution works on static boards and on LED boards.

Another challenge the firm faces is dealing with extreme outdoor weather. “Fog, rain, snow, things like that, they are difficult weather conditions,” says Gysin. “Another challenge is the scalability with the amount of cameras. We want to have a solution with ten or 20 cameras, all available, but that is a big step and so it will take a while until we get to that point.”

Uniqfeed believes its entirely software-based system has several advantages over existing hardware-based rivals, such as Supponor. Without the need for external sensors, the software-based system allows for a high degree of flexibility, and can be managed remotely and cost-effectively. Since it doesn’t touch the current workflow at the venue, or require modifications to cameras or advertising boards, Uniqfeed’s technology is minimally invasive, while the software is also scalable to many cameras and utilises bandwidth efficiently.  

“Hardware-based systems reduce the flexibility and scalability of the production,” continues Gysin. “Setting them up is also labour-intensive, which means they are not practical for sports that are constantly moving venue to venue, or where you need to set the system up quickly because you are following on from another event the previous night.”

“We are also totally independent from perimeter boards. For us it doesn’t matter if it’s LED boards or ADI LED boards or static boards. Our solution works on static boards and on LED boards.”

uniqFEED's 'AdApt' software generates multiple localised TV feeds from the world feed, while 'ManiCode' allows these to be distributed with lower data usage

Since sponsors are increasingly seeking to measure and confirm their brand visibility during live broadcast, Uniqfeed is able to provide real-time analytics of the live brand exposure, which can be changed and rearranged throughout the event for all feeds. The exposure time accumulated is then available immediately after the sporting event ends, and facilitates better management of sponsorship campaigns.

Moreover, in the unlikely case that the technology malfunctions, Gysin explains that “the worst case could be that the conditions live are not fitting to the product specs and then we have to fade out our system and the TV at home would simply feed the reality instead of a virtual localised tailor-made feed”.

Having trialled its technology effectively within racket sports settings, soccer will be the next challenge for Uniqfeed. “Our strategy is to provide a totally independent software for virtual advertising which fits for all kinds of sports,” Gysin says. “So the focus is on key players like tennis through our partnership Tennis Australia, and then this will make noise in the whole tennis industry and get people noticing us and what we do. The leagues in football and the Premier League – for us, football is a key target.”

In the meantime, the company is in discussions with the rights-holders with which it is trialling its software. “We are also thinking of doing something for ice hockey, for the National Hockey League [NHL],” says Gysin. “They have 31 venues, there are a lot of games – 1,400 in the regular season, and these guys produce everything in a remote production centre. If our technology fits in this remote production hub, it would be a perfect fit – it’s very non-intrusive and scalable and flexible.”

Following on from its success in Oceania with Tennis Australia, Uniqfeed is looking to expand into new markets and consolidate its position as a leading provider of virtual reality advertisements in the sports industry. “We are looking especially at Asia because we believe the Asian market has great potential,” says Gysin. “Languages and cultural behaviours are very segmented. Football and even smaller sports like table tennis and badminton are huge in Asia. There you have so many different cultures and languages and cultural behaviours that localised, tailor-made virtual feeds are a perfect fit for the Asian market.”

Contact uniqFEED by visiting their website, emailing info@uniqfeed.com, or calling +41 500 43 32.