Imaging company artfully projects itself into sports
There’s typically little to celebrate about a league’s work stoppage, but Quince Imaging executives found a way to profit from the NBA’s lockout in late 2011.
Based in Herndon, Va., the company was created in 1997 and had operated until that time by selling high-definition imaging projection systems to corporate clients for events. But the firm launched itself into the sports industry during the lockout, when company executives — who were familiar with staff at nearby Monumental Sports & Entertainment — were able to use the open court at Verizon Center to show off the new technology they had developed: eye-popping, 3-D video that was beamed onto the arena hardwood to make the floor seemingly come alive.
The company has been on an upward trajectory since then, capitalizing as teams push to give their fans creative new in-game entertainment experiences.
“We transformed the floor into a swimming pool and had balls rolling across the floor,” said Quince co-founder Scott Williams of the video display the company debuted in Washington. “We turned the floor into asphalt and made it crumble, and we played a highlight reel. We proved all our concepts in one fell swoop.”
Executives at Monumental, owner of the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals, passed on using the technology, but Quince officials took a video of that day’s demonstration and shipped it around the NBA. It caught the eye of Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, whose Rock Gaming subsidiary decided to use the system for the May 2012 opening of the Gilbert-owned Horseshoe Casino in Cleveland. Quince beamed 3-D video content on the outside of the casino.
|Quince Imaging has made the floor come alive for this year’s NBA All-Star Game and the Cleveland Cavaliers’ pregame.
Intrigued Cavs executives, who were involved with Gilbert’s casino grand opening, decided to use the 3-D court projection system as part of the team’s Zydrunas Ilgauskas jersey retirement ceremony in March 2013. The special effects wowed fans in the arena, and the video of the Ilgauskas event went viral, catapulting the company into the spotlight, including a feature on NBC’s “Today.”
It was also a critical moment for the company.
“Tracy gave us carte blanche to build in the 3-D elements, and it just took off,” Williams said. “I didn’t leave the office until 2 a.m. for two weeks. That just led to more visionary owners wanting to have it part of their in-game experience.”
In 2014, Quince signed deals with the Atlanta Hawks, Philadelphia 76ers, New Jersey Devils and another with the Cavaliers, each deal worth at least $1 million for the seasonlong use of the display technology. The technology’s hardware is mounted in the rafters of a team’s arena and incorporates team-supplied video to create the dynamic 3-D shows that are beamed onto the floor or ice. Quince trains a team’s employees on using the system, and it works with the team for creating the content. It provides a 24-hour hotline to the client in case of any operating issues, as well.
Teams typically use the video display system for player introductions and halftime events, to entertain fans. The product also gives the teams another option for a sponsorship tie-in, a way a club could look to offset some of the product’s seven-figure cost.
“They understand how to collaborate, and with the content, they are turning the hardcourt into an Imax theater,” said Scott O’Neil, CEO of the 76ers and Devils. “It is a big investment in the in-game experience, but it sets an incredible tone that you are about to see an incredible show. If you see it, you want it.”
The Orlando Magic, Miami Heat, Sacramento Kings, Calgary Flames and University of Florida football team have used the Quince system for special events, as have the Barclays Center and the NBA, which used the technology at Madison Square Garden during this year’s All-Star Game. The business in total has pushed Quince’s annual revenue into the $15 million to $20 million range, Williams said
In 2012, about 5 percent of the company’s revenue came from the sports industry. Today, that share is 35 percent, and next year it is projected by Williams to be around 45 percent. Quince plans to add at least four more sports teams to its roster next year, but Williams declined to name the prospective new clients.
Quince has about 225 clients total, and in addition to its suburban D.C. headquarters has offices in Jacksonville and Dallas.
Outside of sports, the company still draws business from a variety of clients ranging from large corporations to universities. Williams would not disclose profitability, but the company’s annual revenue does represent a considerable return on the $500,000 in startup costs that were funded by Williams and his partner, Ron Currier.
There is competition for Quince in its niche industry, namely 4U2C. That Montreal-based company has created similar 3-D projection systems for the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors.
“We wanted to be different from what the industry had experienced,” Williams said. “The [Quince] name was chosen because of the letter ‘q’ and the unique sound. We felt it was memorable.”
“I am definitely a propeller head,” Williams said. “Five years ago, we sat in a room and looked at the sports industry. A few of us pointed to a couple of projections on the ice, but it was just an absolute mess; it never looked good. We determined what we needed to do to make it incredibly compelling.”
Today, the company employs more than 30 people across its offices. Most of those work out of Quince’s suburban D.C. location, where the company aims for its workplace to inspire creativity and cooperation.
“We want to be a very laid-back place to work,” Williams said. “On normal days, we have three to five dogs here and we have no dress code. There is nobody punching a clock. The whole goal is to build a place where employees want to come to work. It is a very collaborative environment.”
Williams heads up the company’s sales efforts. That keeps him on the road as he pitches not just to basketball and hockey teams but also to football and baseball teams. Expanding the use of the company’s technology outside of indoor arenas is essential to the continued growth of Quince. But moving the 3-D display outside is more complicated given that facilities must be dark to fully present the high-def on-field video display.
“We are discussing a number of things with football and baseball,” Williams said. “The challenge of outdoor sports is that the lights are not shutterable, but that will change. It is vastly more difficult because the surface isn’t as conducive to video light. But a number of baseball teams have approached us to do special events on the infield. It’s nice to have a niche, but we are not one to sit on laurels.”