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From branding to broadcasting, Volleyball Nations League creates festival-like atmosphere for fans

France celebrate semi-final victory over Brazil with their fans on Saturday, July 7, 2018. (Photo by FIVB)
by Chibuogwu Nnadiegbulam, AIPS Young Reporter, Nigeria
LILLE, July 8, 2018 – Anyone attending the FIVB men's Nations League at Lille's state-of-the-art Stade Pierre-Mauroy could think it is a concert at first sight. The lighting is a perfect transition of the tournament’s colours (red, blue and white), the atmosphere is electric and quite infectious, while the hall vibrates to the exciting sounds that emanate from the DJ’s mixer.

When the players are emerging from the tunnel, they grab all the spotlight. The volunteers form a guard of honour for them and everyone applauds as they make their way to the court for volleyball action. From start to finish there is never a dull moment.

Fan engagement at the VNL is of top-notch quality and one does not only have fun by getting involved, one can also learn how the sport is played. This is one way the FIVB also looks to introduce more people to the sport, and knowing the rules is not a prerequisite.

When play starts, the music stops, but not for long because fans are made to celebrate special moments in the match; super spike, monster block, ace, rally, etc., even as a player’s individual skill is being highlighted. They give a standing ovation when a team is at ‘set point’ or ‘match point’. Clapping of hands and the Mexican wave are a constant feature during proceedings. Even during ‘challenges’, a theme song that depicts suspense is played as everyone, including the referees, watches the big screens for Hawkeye’s verdict.

Technical timeouts are filled with fun games which the volunteers will demonstrate for the spectators to participate. Gifts, including volleyballs, are also thrown into the excited crowd at different times while hyper match commentators also contribute to the excitement.

Why VNL? - “Be part of the game” is the slogan for the Volleyball Nations League which concludes its inaugural edition on Sunday with the men’s final between France and Russia. This brand new annual competition was introduced this season with the aim of revolutionizing volleyball and presenting it in a way that has never been experienced before so that fans can feel more connected to the sport in every corner of the world.

The Volleyball Nations League was announced on October 12, 2017 at the FIVB’s 70th anniversary celebrations in Paris. It is a joint project between the FIVB, IMG and 21 national federations. Both the men’s and women’s leagues have the same round robin format and the same prize money with a total of 16 teams participating (12 core teams and 4 challenger teams). This is to promote equality. The tournament includes a total of 260 matches (130 in the men’s tournament and 130 in the women’s) and each core nation also have the responsibility of hosting at least one pool.

Teams – The participating teams for this year’s event was selected based on their rankings. In the women’s event, the core teams were Brazil, Italy, USA, China, Serbia, the Netherlands, Thailand, Turkey, South Korea, Germany, Japan and Russia, while the challenger teams included Argentina, the Dominican Republic, Poland and Belgium. Brazil, China, Serbia, the Netherlands, Turkey and USA made it to the Final Six which took place in Nanjing, China and USA were crowned champions.

The core teams in the men’s competition were Brazil, Italy, USA, China, Serbia, France, Argentina, Iran, Poland, Germany, Japan and Russia, while the four designated challenger teams included Australia, South Korea, Canada and Bulgaria. USA, Brazil, Serbia, Russia, France and Poland made it to the Final Six of which France and Russia will decide the champions today.

Since May, fans have had the luxury of enjoying volleyball action week in, week out. While the women play from Tuesday to Thursday, the men take over on the weekends from Friday to Sunday.

Branding – Following through with FIVB’s vision for the VNL, global brand strategy and design firm, Landor created a brand that is made of volleyball and inspired by the court’s colors and its iconic grid lines.

Using innovative digital technology, Landor created a unique logotype and typography. The shape of each letter on the logo was created with motion capture, tracking the zigzag trajectory of the ball passing from player to player. This is to convey the emotions experienced by players and fans in the stadium during a match.

Landor created the in-stadium and on-screen television graphics, staff uniforms, as well as designs for the World Volleyball app, medals and the winning trophy.

Broadcasting – Taking digitalization into account, for the first time ever The FIVB - in collaboration with IMG - are in complete control of its own content production. This to ensure that their fans through various broadcasters across the globe get quality and compelling content.

Volleyball TV, the first over-the-top (OTT) digital streaming platform in volleyball history, was launched prior to the start of the VNL and is available as a Pay Per View (PPV) service. It provides fans both live action and unmissable highlights.
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