With large gatherings of people very much off the agenda, the Outdoor LED screen market has seen some pretty huge changes over the last few months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Live events, stadium sport, entertainment venues and retail destinations ceased to operate almost overnight during March 2020, as the world faced social distancing and restrictions on movement.
However, the market is adapting and evolving – driven by enterprising event organisers, creative sports venues and a general requirement for public safety – with LED screens demonstrating their value and versatility as we ease out of lockdown and into the new normal.
The Rise of the Drive In
The car is the place to be for the 2020 events season!
As governments began to ease restrictions, event organisers have had to get creative with concepts for delivery and activation in a socially distanced society. Outdoor cinemas have been popping up en-masse across Europe – ADI have supplied 10 separate sites across Germany alone – and this concept is set to be huge across the UK this summer. They allow social distancing, mass entertainment and revenue generation, which is much needed to kick-start the live events economy in the face of widespread cancellations.
LED screens, both mobile and modular, offer the best solution for drive-ins given the scale, superior brightness and reliable qualities of the technology; allowing organisers to host drive-in events day and night, and potentially cater for hundreds of vehicles and people at each sitting.
While drive-in cinemas are familiar to us, there’s an increasing variety of live events adapting to this format; from raves, concerts, opera and comedy nights to circuses, strip shows and church services, organisers are making it work in the new normal.
A number of sport leagues have also grasped hold of the drive-in format: Danish Superliga leaders FC Midtjylland delivered a fan drive-in match experience for up to 2,000 vehicles utilising 2 large LED screens outside the stadium. As a nice extra touch, live footage of fans in their cars was relayed to the in-bowl screens to deliver some atmosphere and encouragement for the players.
Communication to the Masses
Large-format LED comes into its own for delivering effective mass communications; at festivals, fan zones, shopping centres or at the roadside, this technology is dynamic in its capacity to grab attention, deliver messages or promote brands to hundred or thousands of people at a time.
It continues to offer huge value even in the unsettling climate and socially dispersed society we now find ourselves in. We’ve seen essential stores, retail parks and city centres utilise LED screens to share government and health care advice, reinforcing important messages to the public where they shop or commute and importantly delivering a consistent message to everyone.
Value for Re-opening Venues
As non-essential retail, leisure venues and transport hubs re-open or receive increased capacity, LED continues to be an incredibly useful platform when deployed in the right locations. LED screens at entrances or main thoroughfares can assist with crowd management and communicate queue times, restrictions or promotional offers.
Traditionally shopping centres and retail destinations have used large-format LED to display Digital Out of Home advertising or perhaps playful content to boost dwell time, but now the informational role of LED technology is conceivably more important. The public need to be assured that their experience will be safe, controlled and enjoyable, and LED screens can communicate those messages at point of contact better than anything else.
Enhancing sport behind closed doors
Whether it’s the use of digital LED perimeter signage alongside the pitch, screens in the stands or a huge LED display at the finish post of a racecourse (as seen at Royal Ascot 2020), LED screens may prove more valuable than ever in live sport.
Without a local audience to point towards, the screens can instead face the broadcast cameras, providing additional opportunity to activate brand partnerships whilst also providing a platform to engage with audiences watching remotely. Global TV audiences are still out there, many in some kind of lockdown, but eagerly seeking fresh entertainment and interaction with the sports they’ve missed.
Technology is helping sports to reimagine the fan experience. Just look at the activations in the Danish league, with AGF Aarhus ‘inviting’ 10,000 fans into the stadium via large-format LED in the stands and the Zoom conferencing platform; it made fans feel part of the action and created support and atmosphere for the players on the pitch. Selected Premier League and La Liga clubs have also followed suit, with variations of LED ‘fan walls’ in the stands with a mixture of live and curated content via social media or video conferencing platforms.
When Fans Return
As we gradually move out of lockdown, it would appear that social distancing may be with us for some time to come. If – as seems likely – sporting events will initially start to allow smaller audiences to minimise risk of transmission, we will not doubt see an even greater importance placed on the use of LED viewing screens and digital signage to help enforce this.
LED’s ability to inform, promote and engage is monumental and a significant tool for venues that want to offer a safe, managed experience. In the USA the iconic Indy 500 is preparing to welcome back spectators to its August event, with large format LED and digital signage integrated with advanced data-tracking analytics to ensure simple wayfinding and managed visitor flow around the Speedway.
As the organisers of this world-famous event rightly comment, “The future of sports will be driven by the ability to use technology to enhance fan experience, safety and convenience.”