At 49 seconds past the 24th minute past seven o’clock tonight the three big screens in the Aviva Stadium will switch to messages of support and pictures of fans selected from those in the stadium or on their way there posted by fans using the hashtag #IRLDEN.
The display will last for precisely 120 seconds before moving on to the next phase of a meticulously planned programme of information, entertainment, promotion and crowd safety delivered across the many media available in the ground.
Yesterday we spent time in and around the stadium with Daragh Persse whose Brand Fans manage all the engagement media at the Aviva Stadium for the FAI. Persse is up for the game having had 24 hours rest since running a totally different show for the IRFU at the same venue on Saturday.
“It’s similar in terms of the technology but totally different in terms of the kind of content which fans want and sporting bodies need to deliver to the two sets of fans and partners,” said Persse.
“Saturday for the rugby, the television match official comes much more into play than for football, though both sets of fans will automatically look to the screen to see what has just happened.”
Team and Tournament
“There is also a split between the team and the tournament rights for the rugby with equal billing needing to be found for Vodafone as the team sponsors and Guinness as sponsors of the Guinness Series.”
“An obvious way this manifested on Saturday was the static branding on the screen when kicks were being taken. For Ireland it was Vodafone and for South Africa it was Guinness.”
“The transition moments or split seconds on these are crucial. Go from brand to the ball sailing between the posts too early and you risk catching the eye of the kicker and that’s a critical failing. Go too late and the fans will be upset that they didn’t get to see whether it went through or just past.”
“Our team is experienced enough now to know exactly when that split second is.”
The preparation for a big game begins three weeks out with a gentle reminder to all the partners involved of what is required for them to gain access to the screen and activate the partnership through eyeballs. Some will use advertising material but increasingly the time is given over to original and compelling content that fans really do see.
For the last FAI game Three showed the content they produced of Shane Long handing over a shirt to a fan who was not expecting to see him.
On Saturday Vodafone played out extended cuts of the campaign they are running based around “Who we are is how we play.
“We have a deadline for the delivery of content to make it into the programming and most of the partners are diligent in getting the right formats over at the right time,” continued Persse.
“The run sheet for the programme goes into meticulous detail and we are always looking for a balance between what needs to be said, what partners want to be said and what fans want to see.”
Our choice of music at key points aims at consistency. It like a series of triggers so the fans know when the tension is mounting, and a lot of this is decided after consultation with fan groups as well.
“It’s a key part of the fan experience and while we will never be on a par with the action as it unfolds between the white lines, what we deliver for the sporting bodies is a key part of how they engage with commercial partners and fans.
“Everything is in the spotlight and together we need to make editorial judgements on what is appropriate and when the stadium team might need to take over for a safety announcement.”
“Attention to detail is critical. Making sure that a players name is spelt right, that the most up to date logos are featured and that the right content is cued when the right button is pressed takes time to get right and, just like sport, the hardest work goes into making sure that the programme is a winner on the night.”
Over the past weeks, it has been like a number of complicated jigsaws, all coming together at just the right moment and all ready for the IRFU and FAI to put their best feet forward on two of the biggest games to take place at the stadium this year.
The fan content will be a new departure tonight, having been trialled at the FAI Cup Finals and proving really popular.
If you are reading this on the morning of the game, Persse will be heading back to the Aviva for the final countdown to game time.
He’ll be counting the hours to around mid-afternoon, then minutes until the stadium gates open 90 minutes before kick off and after that, it’s into the realm of split seconds.
It promises to be a night for the ages. The Brand Fans will be a key part in how those of us in the ground remember it.
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