Fenway’s New Robotic Cameras Help Fans Be Fans While Also Helping the Red Sox With Marketing

Sharp, clear shots of the action—and sponsors

The new camera pods, which each contain Nikon cameras that shoot 12 frames a second, can pivot toward and zoom in on most any part of Fenway. Nikon

One of the less publicized aspects of stadiums prohibiting live audiences is the sticky situation it creates for sponsors and professional teams. Sponsoring brands with signage inside ballparks are paying for eyeballs, after all, and the teams are dependent on getting those payments.

In this respect, the Boston Red Sox, who play in the 108-year-old Fenway Park, face the same challenges as every Major League team right now. But the Sox recently took the wraps off a new, technical solution for it just before the end of the season. It’s a new robotic pod camera system designed by Nikon that delivers an FTP stream and high-res images in real time, which can be used for broadcast, social media and promotions.

While the team can use the system to please its fans with better angles and crisper stills, sponsors will be pleased with the system’s ability to zero in on their brand names that appear around the ballpark.

The camera’s AF-S Nikkor 80-400mm zoom lens can zero in on center field from the top of the house.

“The pods are positioned in key areas of the stadium—on the roof of the press box, on the third and first baselines and overlooking center field and the bullpen, in addition to a low-angle immediately behind home plate,” Nikon’s sales director Larry Rougas told Adweek. “These positions offer unique angles of players and the field as well as more alternative angles of signage and superior logo placements.”

Fenway already had the infrastructure to broadcast its games, of course, but the arrival of Covid-19 and the many restrictions that came with it created a need for not only a greater range of shots to please at-home fans, but a system that could be operated remotely. Nikon’s subsidiary brand MRMC, which designs and manufactures robotic rigs, handled the motion control and automation aspects.

“Covid presented a challenge unlike any before, so we needed to find a way to adapt our existing system for content capture,” said Red Sox senior photography manager Billie Weiss. “Fortunately, updating the system also had many benefits for us.” Fans enjoy a broader range of shots, including zoom-in and 360-degree motion, Weiss said, while staff can reduce the kind of close contact that, prior to Covid, nobody had to worry about.

Remote operators can control each pod to generate images for uses ranging from broadcast to social media/marketing.

The system has been used to provide supplemental shots for New England Sports Network broadcasts, though it’s most useful for high-res stills that the team can deploy on various online platforms.

As Adweek reported in August, while Covid-19 has not squelched the kind of major sponsorship deals on which pro sports teams depend, teams are searching for ways to make good on promised impression numbers when it comes to interior signage and other branding vehicles. Among those “sweeteners” are boosting a sponsoring brand’s visibility on social media.

@UpperEastRob robert.klara@adweek.com Robert Klara is a senior editor, brands at Adweek, where he specializes in covering the evolution and impact of brands.