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Infront takes sports marketing into the virtual world

“Empire of Sports” to be launched by end of 2007 as first ever virtual online multi-sports world

Zug, Switzerland – Infront Sports & Media, one of the leading international sports marketing companies, has today announced a major strategic development for the company, in the launch of “Empire of Sports” – an online virtual world of sports gaming platform. This exciting project will take the company into a parallel universe of sport where the scope for growth is as unlimited as the imagination of its players.

Empire of Sports is the world’s first massive multi-player online game platform (MMORPG) built entirely around sport. It is designed to allow millions of players around the world to simultaneously exist in an online universe, where their alter egos socially interact, train, compete, attend events and buy the goods and services they need to build a parallel sporting existence.

An innovative approach to the booming gaming industry

Gaming is one of the fastest growing of all entertainment sectors, outstripping feature films in terms of revenue generation. The gaming sector shows particular strong growth with on-line gaming – where players interact with others via the Internet – accounting for half of all play among those under 20 years old.

To capitalise on this trend, Infront has formed a joint-venture with F4, a leading video game development company based in Paris, known for its expertise for online worlds and state-of-the-art graphics. Between them, they have created a gaming platform, where players can train and compete, form teams and leagues, even take coaching lessons. Empire of Sports has a virtual economy, powered by a virtual currency. Within this environment, players are able to interact with brands and their products and services to enrich their virtual life, with their spending and lifestyle decisions informed by the advertising and sponsorship they encounter there.

“This is part of a new strategic direction for our company” said Infront’s President & CEO Philippe Blatter. “The special skills that Infront applies in the real world, deploying sports marketing as a medium for influencing consumers, are totally applicable to this virtual world - it’s the perfect preparation and a logical step. While the world we have created may be virtual, the marketing opportunities for brands are very real.”

“Gaming today is a serious part of the entertainment industry,” said Bruno Heintz, President of F4. “With the increasing sophistication of games, the demographics have shifted – it is reaching a very large number of people with an age below 40 and now is a means of entertainment equivalent to TV, movies and other media. The concept being developed with Infront hits the sweet spot between the power of gaming and the significance of sports in a social environment.”

Dr. Christian Müller, who is the managing director of the project, added: “This is the first-ever virtual online multi-sports world with role-playing elements. There are single sport online games but no one has seamlessly integrated multiple games around the entire sports lifestyle. The user becomes a 3D avatar, capable of developing his or her virtual body through sport and training all-the-while socialising within the Empire of Sports community.”

The new company is supported by a dedicated team of experienced professionals from the gaming and sports industry, offering highest level of client servicing and user support.

The sports game – which can be played by millions of players / teams at the same time, – available at launch will be basketball, skiing, tennis and a gym. Other major games will be announced as the platform develops. The target user base is five million people after one year, but the platform is highly scalable and can host tens of millions of users.

“The primary value proposition for sponsors is integration of their services or products in the world as virtual items used by the characters ‘like in real life’ – other possibilities include sponsoring of virtual events and advertisements. It is of utmost importance to us that the integrated products and services enhance the gaming experience for the consumer, and through that they become the most powerful marketing tools available today”, said Philippe Blatter.

Empire of Sports is not only a revolutionary new communication and business development opportunity for commercial partners, but offers also great value to sports rights holders world wide. The platform represents a unique opportunity for federations, clubs and athletes to strengthen the relationship to their primary target groups, even in markets they do not have immediate access to. Through Empire of Sports, rights holders are able to present their properties to fans and sponsors 24/7 throughout the year all around the world.

The platform offers many tailor made integration models, including virtual representation of a federation or a club or fan clubs, virtual leagues and competitions (from grassroots to professional level), athlete showcases, “web 3D” integration of rights holder’s website(s) and various other options to promote content and/or exploit media rights.