Cree Kicks Off Sports Lighting Campaign with Aid from Soccer Captain Abby Wambach

In an intensely fought semi-final match on June 30, the U.S. women soccer team beat German team 2-0 at FIFA Women’s World Cup and secured its spot in the competition finals. Sharp-eyed viewers might recognize the team’s captain Abby Wambach had recently showed off her impressive goal shooting skills in U.S. LED manufacturer Cree’s sports lighting advertisement. The ad featuring Wambach had attracted more than 550,000 views in two weeks across all Cree and Abby Wambach social channels, including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, said Mike Watson, Vice President of Product Strategy at Cree.

In a recent interview Watson spoke about Cree's partnership with Wambach, and trends observed in the sports lighting market.

Soccer phenomenon Abby Wambach was chosen for this particular campaign because she was “a leader who never gives up and whose passion and leadership transcend her sport,” said Watson. Having scored 180 goals during her soccer career, Wambach is the world record holder for scoring the most international goals for both genders. She is also the six-time winner of the U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year. Her passion for the sport and extraordinary talent is carving new pathways for athletes and females, and attracting admiration and fans from all over the world.

Wambach’s dedication to the sport and mission to win the FIFA Women’s World Cup with her fellow teammates resonates with Cree’s “mission to eliminate bad light on the way to 100% LED adoption,” said Watson.

Abby Wambach, captain and forward of U.S. women soccer team at FIFA Women's World Cup shows off her shooting skills in a Cree lighting ad. (Photo Courtesy of Cree)

Watson declined to comment on the company’s involvement in the FIFA Women’s World Cup soccer stadium lighting projects in Canada, but highlighted the company’s active development of new lighting technologies for sports venue applications.

“Cree has seen growing demand for sports lighting in 2015, with an increased number of installations,” said Watson. “This is in conjunction with many technology advances for stadiums, including the push for HD and higher quality video for viewers at home and better quality video for slow motion reviews. LED technology opens up opportunities to address these needs and better the experience for fans in-stadium and at home.”

The growing numbers of stadium lighting conversions and unique lighting demands sets it apart from traditional indoor or outdoor lighting applications.

“Sports lighting applications (both indoor and outdoor) must deliver a high light level and maintain ‘average illuminance’ to help ensure athlete performance as well as meet the increasing light quality requirements for broadcast TV (Standard Definition and High Definition),” explained Watson. “In addition to visual benefits, with the introduction of high performance LED lighting, facility owners and operators can replace the large quantity of incumbent (HID) lighting with fewer LED fixtures, increasing energy cost savings and decreasing overall maintenance for a lower total cost of ownership.”

As lighting in sports facilities shift towards LEDs, one emerging trend has been the search for better optics to clearly illuminate the entire arena and the air above the playing field, “something that incumbent technologies would have a great difficulty doing because of their use of reflectors for just general lighting needs,” said Watson.   

In contrast In contrast, retail lighting tends to focus on LED technology that is capable of delivering high impact lighting with exceptional color rendering to enhance store aesthetics and the customer shopping experience.

Similar to sports lighting applications, high vertical light levels would also be a requisite in facilities for commercial high-bay settings, but quality for HD cameras would not be a major factor. “Schools and universities use high bay lighting in gyms, for example, to help significantly lower maintenance and energy consumption when replacing outdated metal halide fixtures,” said Watson. One high school, for instance has replaced 400W metal halide high-bay lights with Cree’s CXB Series 23,000-lumen high-bay fixtures that have a color temperature of 4000K, and light levels ranging from 30 to 70 foot candels, while cutting energy usage in half. “Cree’s CXB Series high-bay luminaire also reduces ongoing labor costs during its 70,000-hour rated lifetime,” said Watson.

The U.S.-based LED manufacturer has been developing LED lighting technology for sports lighting application in-house as well as working through supplier design partnership models with leading sports lighting specialists, such as Musco Lighting and Ephesus Lighting.

“Our commitment to the advantage of high-density and high power LEDs, as shown by Cree SC5 Technology™ Platform, has driven LED performance to the point where providing a better lighting experience in large stadiums through LED is possible,” said Watson. “The platform can reduce system costs by up to 40% in most lighting applications, achieving unparalleled lumen density and longer lifetime at higher operating temperatures than previous LED technology, which can significantly reduce thermal, mechanical and optical costs at the system level.”

The Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) Viets field, home to the men and women’s soccer teams, is one example where lighting energy consumption was reduced with the installation of Cree Edge™ High Output Area luminaires, which anticipated will help them make energy savings of 200,000 kWh annually. The luminaire upgrade will also save the school time and money earmarked for maintenance needs.

Cree’s LEDs can also be found in University of Phoenix Stadium, one of the biggest football games in U.S. this 2015 was played under Ephesus luminaires that used Cree LEDs, said Watson. Cree LEDs can also be spotted in hockey stadiums, such as PNC Arena, home to the Carolina Hurricanes hockey team, where more than 200 optically-enhanced Musco Lighting fixtures fitted with over 20,000 Cree LEDs. The lighting upgrade “effectively manages glare to improve playability for athletes and the experience for fans,” said Watson.

(Author: Judy Lin, Chief Editor, LEDinside)

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