New Zealand Rugby pioneers innovative commercial model with new photography partner, SmartFrame

SmartFrame Technologies, a leading UK-based tech start-up that is redefining the digital image standard, has today announced its appointment as the official photography and image-distribution partner of New Zealand Rugby (NZR).

SmartFrame has enlisted the services of action press – a leading photography service provider – led by Ulli Michel, former Global Pictures Editor of Reuters, to capture all official photography of the All Blacks, Black Ferns, Māori All Blacks and NZR’s other Teams in Black.

The SmartFrame model assigns the rights to these images to NZR and allows the organisation to profit from the revenues generated by occasional in-image advertising that will be displayed within the images. Under this new commercial model, publishers will be able to embed these images on their websites without charge, and if they participate in SmartFrame’s Publisher Program they will also be eligible to a share of in-image advertising revenue.

NZR’s imagery will still be available to fans and media organisations around the world via traditional photo agency subscriptions, but only publishers using official SmartFrame images will be able to access them for free. SmartFrame’s official images will be exclusively distributed online using the company’s innovative image-streaming technology.

The partnership provides a new media space for NZR’s sponsors and commercial partners, powered by SmartFrame’s in-image advertising system and an improved experience for fans and sports news consumers. Advertisers partnered with SmartFrame can associate with the NZR brand, reaching its fans and wider rugby audiences around the world with ads targeted to specific images, websites, geolocations, and devices. The result is high-impact, unmissable, contextual advertising campaigns in the heart of the editorial content fans are already consuming.

The digital advertising industry is expected to grow to $836bn by 2026. SmartFrame’s ad-funded model generates rich new revenue streams for publishers, photographers and NZR by monetising the audience viewing an official SmartFrame image as opposed to licensing the asset. The $4bn image licensing industry has been in decline for over a decade, due to low-cost licensing and mass misuse of JPEG images. Thanks to SmartFrame’s technology, content owners can now generate revenue every time images are viewed, ensuring they are once again compensated fairly for their work.

The partnership also allows NZR to regain ownership and control of its teams’ official photography – a game-changer in an ecosystem monopolised by industry giants that retain ownership of the IP of images sports brands pay them to capture.

“Imagery has always been a key component in bringing our sport closer to the fans. We’re very proud of this partnership with SmartFrame and to be the first sports team to pioneer this innovative image-streaming technology to drive both new and richer revenue opportunities, and a vastly improved fan experience from our official images,” said Yarnie Guthrie, Global Head of Commercial Sales at NZR. “As the sports and media ecosystems evolve, we must adapt and question the status quo. In doing so, we’ve been able to win back the rights to our own imagery, while uncovering new data, audience insights and a new commercial model that has huge potential.”

The exclusive, official, and authenticated NZR images are now available for publishers to embed as SmartFrame images for free. Advantages include:

● Engaging functionality, increased dwell times and content satisfaction
● Access to new image data and analytics, while removing image licensing costs
● Images turned into revenue-generating ad formats via contextually relevant advertising, streamed into the image frame
● Ad revenues split between all parties involved, creating a new image ecosystem that is ethical and benefits all

The technology will also drive improved fan engagement for NZR. SmartFrame images will provide immersive, high-resolution imagery and interactive features like full-screen viewing and Hyper Zoom technology, as well as crucial audience insights and protection against image theft and misuse.

Rob Sewell, CEO of SmartFrame Technologies, said: “This first-of-its-kind partnership with New Zealand Rugby marks a significant shift, not just in the sports image industry, but across the entire image ecosystem. We’re redefining the digital image standard and distribution model to empower the rights of image owners, and provide them with full control and transparency over the use of their images, along with an ad-funded commercial model (much like YouTube or Spotify) that can transform the industry and drive significant revenue growth once again into the hands of the creators. We’re very proud to be able to partner with such an iconic sports brand which is globally recognised for its ethics, drive and forward-thinking innovations, to demonstrate to the world what the future looks like when it comes to image ownership, protection, controlled distribution and commercialisation.”

The New Zealand Rugby Official Photography Library can be found here.

Header image: Credit: John Cowpland / action press

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