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Port Vale Stadium LED Screen ADI

Port Vale Go Big on Engagement and Partners with Superwide Stadium Screen

This season, Vale Park has had a new addition in the form of a huge superwide LED screen in the North West corner of the stadium.

Installed by ADI and operated by the club, it’s one of the largest displays in the EFL and has quickly become an important part of the matchday, both for the club’s fans and for its commercial partners.

We spent an evening with Vale’s Head of Commercial Ritchie Bates to discuss the impact the screen is having on the matchday and the club’s sponsor platform.

Ritchie Bates Port Vale
Fans at The Heart of The Club

Currently playing in EFL League 1, Vale are a locally owned club, having been bought by Carol and Kevin Shanahan in early 2019. The pair are a local fintech success story and lifelong Vale fans; their ethos of putting people and fans first has proven popular and was a major driver for Ritchie joining the team in late 2019:

“I was blown away by the vision that Carol Shanahan had for the club – both short term and long term. I’m really proud to work for someone like Carol – she’s a fantastic person.”

“My remit was to improve commerciality in as many avenues as possible – hospitality, partnerships & sponsorship, ticketing, venue sales.” 

A very visible part of this is the newly named “Robbie’s” Bar (named after a certain famous pop-star fan… more on that later!) which fans flock to for pre-match hospitality. This was an area of the club that didn’t exist when Richie arrived and they have transformed the empty concrete space into a thriving hospitality area with a fantastic view of the match.

Hospitality is a key part of today’s Port Vale experience and Ritchie takes pride in telling us that they make everything from scratch at the club. It’s something to rightfully be proud of – the food is incredible and plentiful, both in the buffet area in the bar and in the Chairman’s Lounge dining suite.

It all feeds into a club with an ethos of supporting their fans and the local community.

Ritchie continues: “The actual digital landscape was lower on the list – however I’d say that the digital transformation across systems has been one of the most important things we’ve done here.”

The screen plays an important part of today’s matchday experience – providing a constant space to inform and entertain fans throughout the match, whilst simultaneously offering a dynamic space to activate partnerships. “We’ve had the screen around 9 months now but feel we’ve only just really scratched the surface with what we can do with it.” Interactivity is a focus for Vale and the club are looking at improvements to the club app that allow for more engagement through content and polls, particularly targeting younger fans.

Local Partner Packages

Ritchie has revolutionised the club partners’ sponsorship packages this season, with the new screen at the heart of the offering. “We have a main sponsor – a tech company based locally that operates internationally – the screen is powered by Food Hub. On top of that we have partners for match events: goals, subs, bookings, corners, red cards as well as for trivia and even Boomer the club mascot!”

The superwide screen is in 32:9 format – effectively two “normal” 16:9 screens side by side.  During the match, the screen is generally setup in a format with a 16:9 screen in the centre, with two 8:9 wings flanking it.  “Because we have a superwide screen we are able to offer in game adverts. We’ve actually divided up the 90 minutes into five-minute adverts that we split into 30 second bursts.  We can then sell a five-minute package to businesses, which is interspersed throughout the game.

“We used to have a small scoreboard that displayed the score and time and that’s it; now we can do so many engagement pieces, plus we have a significant inventory for partnerships and sponsorships.”

The screen has helped to enhance the offering to club partners and is sold as an uplift to their packages and as part of new packages.  It’s certainly proving a popular part of the inventory:

“Whereas before the package make-up has been down to a partnership’s taste or what they want to achieve from the club, since we got the screen every single one has said ‘we’re going on the screen!’ – it’s a non-negotiable for every single partner.”

A Short Road to Profitability
“The money the screen brings in is the equivalent of having around 3 stand sponsorships.”

Commercially, the screen is quickly paying for itself: “We’ve sold over 75% in our first season – most of it in the summer before the screen was even on. That means that we can effectively pay back the screen within three seasons – after that it’s all pure profit.”

With stadium screens typically having a lifetime of ten years or more, the numbers certainly seem to add up.

Ritchie feels there’s more to come: “We feel there’s lots more potential to unlock – currently we’ve not even touched pre match or half time.”

Content

Whilst ADI provide content and matchday services for tens of clubs across the EPL and EFL, Vale are one of the clubs that operate their screen themselves, from a control room on the halfway line, overlooking the screen.

The control solution was specced and provided by ADI as part of the initial installation and has been built to be as flexible as possible, whilst still being simple to use.

“The guys were worried it would be more difficult, but they love it! The matchday team has guys from Commercial, Marketing and Media – there’s four of them in there, but they all know how to use it.”

The club’s media team have a close relationship with the partners and are happy to be flexible with the content, allowing them to change videos and content as and when they wish to throughout the season.

For specific match events, the screen changes to a superwide format, the content zooming out seamlessly to create an epic and eye-catching canvas.  The club’s famous “Glad All Over” Goal celebration is probably the best example of this, as the screen content encourage fans to sing along.

Non-matchdays

The screen isn’t just used on matchdays – during the work-week it’s used by the club and also to support partners who might be visiting or using the club conferencing facilities, or even to support the occasional visit from global pop legend – and recently appointed Club President – Robbie Williams!

why choose adi?

Whilst ADI have been installing stadium LED screens for nearly 30 years now (they actually installed UK football’s first screens at Villa Park in 1997), there are more companies than ever offering the technology.  What was it that made Ritchie choose ADI as a partner?

“It actually came down to one thing: reputation. I’ve worked in football for many years now and speaking to Commercial Directors and CEOs across the sporting world, ADI’s reputation is untarnished. It was quite an easy decision where we wanted to go where we felt safe and we always felt like that with ADI.”

Ritchie has big plans for the screen, but the singular most important thing to him – and to the club’s owners – is that it adds value for their fanbase.

“I always say that sponsorship and partnership is the reason to pay for the screen but it’s not the reason to get it. The reason to get it is to engage with the fans.”

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