The 2010 National Football League season kicks off tonight with the Minnesota Vikings taking on the New Orleans Saints in a rematch of last year's NFC Championship Game.
And digital signage will be there, and in almost every corner of the NFL world.
This year's NFL season will also see the debut of the league's newest prize jewel, the $1.6 billion New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., home to both the New York Giants and the New York Jets.
And digital signage will be there in a giant way.
At a recent press conference about the technology incorporated into the new stadium, officials from Cisco and Verizon joined team and stadium officials to talk about the more than $100 million invested in technology for the new stadium — making it, in the words of Giants team president and CEO John Mara, "the most technologically-advanced stadium in the world."
The new stadium is equipped with four massive HD video display scoreboards and more than 2,200 HD video displays located throughout the facility, designed to give fans access to the game virtually everywhere in the stadium. All of the 2,200 video displays are powered by the latest release of Cisco's StadiumVision digital video and content distribution system.
StadiumVision centrally controls and delivers customized sports and entertainment experiences, advertising, promotions and general venue information to fans and patrons at the venue.
During sporting events, Cisco StadiumVision technology will present live game footage, team trivia, news and weather information. It is also flexibly designed to allow New Meadowlands Stadium operators to change the entire color scheme, content and team branding from Giants blue to Jets green with the push of a few buttons, according to a release from Cisco. It can also be easily adapted to accommodate concerts, conferences and other sporting events hosted at the facility.
And Verizon is teaming with Cisco to bring 34 channels of customized HD content into the stadium, giving fans access to other games and additional content at the same time in parts of the facility.
New Meadowlands Stadium and Cisco also are working to deploy digital video walls for customized Jets or Giants visual and audio content to be displayed in the public concourses, allowing for additional promotional opportunities.
In addition to the work done by Cisco and Verizon at the stadium, the four HD video displays positioned behind the corners of the end zones will utilize Daktronics HD-12 technology. The displays feature lines of pixels on 12-millimeter spacing and enough resolution to simultaneously present two true HD video images side by side, according to Daktronics.
The Daktronics "super system" at the stadium also includes a digital ribbon board more than 1,800 feet long that circles the inside of the seating bowl; lower-level game-in-progress ribbon boards; and 20 digital pylons outside the stadium.
But Daktronics isn't just in the new stadium. The Brookings, S.D.-based company says it has systems working in 29 of the 31 NFL venues. (There are 32 NFL teams, but the Giants and the Jets share New Meadowlands Stadium.) Daktronics also is in Louisiana's Superdome, home of the Saints and site of tonight's game, where it has deployed large video boards and digital ribbon boards.
Digital signage also is helping in the New Meadowlands Stadium's retail efforts. Delaware North Companies and Chute Gerdeman Retail — whose high-profile clients include M&M's World, Target, Levi Strauss and Mattel (Barbie Shanghai) — partnered to develop a state-of-the-art retail store at the facility, called The Flagship Store Powered by Reebok.
Using architectural design and lighting features, along with digital signage, the store can quickly transform from a Jets-themed store to a Giants-themed one virtually overnight, according to Delaware North. The store can also be split 50/50 between the two teams on non-game days.
"Our biggest challenge in the development of this store was coming up with a way to give both home teams an exclusive presence without sacrificing operational efficiency," Donna Genesky, director of retail for Delaware North Companies Sportservice, said in an announcement. "The end result is a magical transformation that provides fans with the ultimate shopping experience."
Digital signage is prominent throughout the retail space and includes a large LED-video wall, easily reprogrammed from one team to the other. Iconic team images, including players in action and team logos, are projected on both the floors and walls at key locations.
The center of the store also features an interactive zone where fans can play a simulated football game on a 15-foot by 8-foot digitally projected Jets or Giants home football field. In addition, four gaming stations feature NFL-themed video games, again programmed to involve the home team.
At the late-August press conference, officials from both teams and the stadium administration said the in-stadium experience needed to compete with the in-home experience — providing the same kind of high-definition, surround-sound technologies viewers are used to at home with the experience of watching a game with 82,000-plus fellow fans in the stands.
"Sporting events have always been a driver of media technology, from the early days of games on the radio to the advent of color TV and beyond," stadium president and CEO Mark Lamping said. "Football fans have changed in the way that they watch football, and we believe it was our responsibility and challenge to change with them."