ADI have been leading the way in digital stadium engagement for 30 years and show no signs of slowing down. CEO, Geraint Williams tells fcbusiness how the company have ridden out the Covid storm and are coming back stronger and more inclusive than ever before.
“I wondered how big the train was going to be coming at us,” reflects Geraint Williams, CEO of ADI in response to the pandemic which pretty much shut down the world at the start of 2020. With a huge amount of the company’s business focused on supplying content and LED technology for sports and live events, the response to the pandemic couldn’t have been any more profound, as indefinite lockdowns saw all social activity such as sport and live events cancelled.
“These last 18 months have been the most difficult I can remember in our 30 years as a business. The biggest challenge for us, for everyone, whatever industry they’re in, has been the uncertainty. In football, effectively all major plans were put on hold for a season, so 2020 was certainly incredibly challenging for us and everyone involved across the whole industry. However, as social distancing started to ease and with it the prospect of fans returning, Clubs have had the confidence to make decisions. This summer has been incredibly busy – one of our busiest in fact.
“The diversity of our offering has been instrumental in carrying us through. Whilst we’ve seen many of our competitors struggle, the “complete solution” approach we bring to the market makes us more attractive, plus it enables us to have irons in more fires.
“We’re the only ones who give our customers the ability to deal directly with the manufacturer, operator and creative from a single partner. And that’s all backed up by 30 years of stadium experience, so we’re able to define and create fully fledged solutions that engage audiences whilst providing high value commercial platforms for sponsors.
There’s no greater example of this than the project currently underway at Burnley FC. With ambitious new owners, Turf Moor is in the midst of a digital revolution, with ADI embedded at the heart of the transformation. “We’re installing over 1,100m² of display hardware at Turf Moor” explains Williams “but the real ingenuity is in how we are linking the different platforms together. So many stadiums have multiple digital platforms installed at different times with completely different operating systems. The Burnley project has been an opportunity to work with visionary clients on something of a blank canvas to create a completely integrated stadium-wide solution.”
The changes are significant: giant super-wide stadium screens are supported by multiple levels of digital perimeter, ribbon and signage throughout the bowl. Outside of the stadium, there’s a host of ribbon signage above and around entrances and turnstiles as well as a giant portrait screen to welcome fans on arrival. And it’s not just LED; ADI have installed a completely new internal IPTV network with over 30 screens throughout the concourse and hospitality areas.
“In total, we’re providing over 100 digital screens and touchpoints within and outside of the stadium, which is an impressive number, but the true value is that these are a completely integrated solution that can be operated and managed centrally, whether that’s remotely by our Studios team on a matchday or by the club at other times.”
Burnley is just one of many significant projects ADI’s team have been busy installing this year – with new digiBOARD installations at Bayern Munich and Arsenal, to name drop just two – but interestingly you have to go a long way down the league tables to get to the project that Williams’ regards as the most significant. Priding themselves as “The Worlds’ Greenest Football Club”, Forest Green Rovers can now add “The World’s Greenest Stadium Digital Platform” thanks to ADI’s recent installation at the innocent New Lawn.
Instead of drawing power from the National Grid, the digital signage will be powered from Powervault battery storage, which will in turn be charged using Forest Green’s own solar and wind turbines, ensuring completely carbon-free operation of the equipment. The installation is also the first digital platform in Sky Bet League Two, thanks to a host of features of ADI’s new MTD digiBOARD range that aims to make the technology more accessible to clubs outside of the top tiers.
For ADI the Forest Green Rovers project has been an exciting challenge to create a product that meets the club’s unrelenting aim of being the most environmentally friendly and sustainable club in the world. “It demonstrates everything around the strength of our products,” Williams continued. “We’ve managed to produce a product that is probably one of the most economical and sustainable products ever made in terms of LED.”
In addition to its eco-credentials, the new product is designed to help clubs lower down the league open up new commercial opportunities afforded by the technology. ADI have taken a holistic approach to the design of the new MTD series, focusing not only on the operating efficiency, but on reducing its overall lifetime carbon footprint.
“Our engineering team developed a brand new product from the ground up using completely different principles about how we might dissipate and manage the energy and this product is probably the world’s most efficient LED perimeter system.”
As we move out of the pandemic, football clubs are looking to recover from the financial impact of playing behind closed doors for a season. As a result, they are looking more closely at the cost implications for high value capital expenditure and so turning to more stringent due diligence and procurement processes.
“I think the pandemic has changed customers’ perceptions of what they need from a supplier and put more of a focus on trusting their partners to deliver. Our solutions and our relationship with a customer doesn’t end with an installation – that’s just the beginning. With a decade-long lifespan of product, clubs need confidence that their partners will be around to support it over that time, particularly for commercially-critical products such as digital perimeter that spend their lives having footballs kicked at them.
“We are seeing much more stringent reviews now,” Williams confesses. “We’re seeing the need to supply detailed background financial information and strength of group, and that is how procurement should be.”
Having been at the top of the market for 30 years, ADI are looking to further build on its successes for the next 30 years. As a full solution provider – manufacturer, integrator, creative, and operator – the company is looking to further expand its operations and solutions to meet the changing demands of the sport and live event markets.
“We’ve achieved some amazing things in those 30 years and we’ve got some great plans for the next 30 years. Notwithstanding the current global shipping challenges, displays are getting more cost effective and slimmer over time, so it’s only natural that we’ll see more displays in more locations throughout stadia. A lot of our focus is about interactivity and how the joined-up platforms manage the content around the venue and how it interacts with the screens in fans’ pockets.”
In the last 18 months ADI have shown they are progressive in their thinking and can look at things in a different way. But as Williams concludes: “The hallmarks we’ve had for 30 years since I started the business in 1991 are still prevalent today. We’re focused on providing leading edge technology that is reliable whilst providing first class support and customer service. And increasingly that’s to a broader range of clubs than ever.”