Why AR and tech are removing the barrier between the sports fan and the court, field or racetrack – and giving marketers something to cheer about
The earth-moving atmosphere and roar of experiencing sport live in a stadium crowd was once an experience exclusive to those holding a ticket. Not anymore, Zoe Cocker, Head of Brand & Yahoo Creative Studios ANZ, writes. Now, technology is enhancing the experience for everyone – and brands can access that powerful consumer moment.
There are few experiences that get the heart racing, blood pumping, like watching a beloved sports team score. It’s visceral, emotional, communal, deafening, and wild.
Sport is one of the few things we experience in life which has the power to create that deep physical reaction. There’s nothing to compare to the intensity of being in the stadium to see your team triumph alongside thousands of other believers. It's a shared experience and adrenaline rush like no other.
Well, there used to be nothing that could come close – until now.
As we emerge out of lockdown and flock back into arenas to root for our favourites, the rules have changed. Technology has evolved the fan experience and consumers are interacting with sports in entirely new ways. Marketers need to keep their eye on the ball.
Today’s playing field
Tech has a long history of enhancing the game for players, brands and fans. From the invention of the wireless, when skilled broadcasters described play-by-plays for listeners to build the game out in their imaginations, to the power of TV bringing events from the other side of the world straight into your living room.
Phones are just the latest in a long line of devices evolving our relationship with the world, and sport is no exception.
Today, the fan experience and athlete experience are intertwined. There's no longer a barrier that separates the fan from the court, the field, or the racetrack.
Take Formula 1 Racing. Up-to-the-minute data on speed, aerodynamics and even how many Gs a driver is experiencing not only helps the engineering teams make split second decisions, but also transports fans into a place they could never have imagined being - right inside the cockpit.
Shifting gears from racing to rugby, volumetric capture has unlocked a whole new space for creative storytelling and data visualisation to enhance the fan experience.
Yahoo partnered with Canon in the UK to use this tech in a match between England and the All Blacks. Cameras placed around the stadium captured images that were then processed and rendered into a 3D playing field.
Viewers could see from any angle how players broke the defensive line. They got inside the game that was playing out right in front of them. Not only does this have huge implications for sport viewing, analysis, training, and development, but it’s also an amazing customisable experience for the viewer.
Consumers are levelling up
Viewers are demanding more of these experiences. We’re heading towards a hybrid reality bringing together the physical and digital, which has only been accelerated by the pandemic.
A global study by Yahoo & YouGov* found 66 per cent of adults now expect their digital experiences and interactions with brands online to be seamless, innovative and enhance their real world. Millennials (83 per cent) and Gen Z (86 per cent) are at the tip of the curve.
Aussies are leading the charge. We’re the highest users of augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR) in the world, 5 per cent above the global average.
With new tech changing habits daily, the widespread adoption of 5G near, plus the possibilities of the metaverse opening up new doors, these trends are rapidly becoming the norm.
The ball’s in your court
There’s a huge opportunity for marketers to tap into this new reality. But, like everything in modern marketing, the real trick is finding the right partners to bring onto your team. We’ve moved beyond one-off gimmicks and are at a stage where businesses need cost effective, scalable platforms that meet their customer’s needs wherever and whatever they are.
Yahoo Creative Studio is at the top of its game around the globe, and our expertise has already been put into play locally at the most important times.
For example, we partnered with Optus to provide thousands of footy fans a different kind of in-stadium experience at the WAFL Grand Final. With the simple scan of a QR code and a quick selfie, fans could create a lifelike avatar of themselves donning their favourite team’s kit and colours. The digital characters could be shared via social media channels, and those at the game also had the ability to upload a photo of a friend if they weren’t in attendance.
One in six people at the game created an avatar, with the average user engaging for four minutes and 58 seconds. There were over 17,700 interactions and over 5,100 avatars downloaded.
Best of all, this wasn’t an expensive one-off activation, but a piece of tech that can easily be reskinned and used at different events for the stadium. Repeatability is important in driving interactions from fans and building expectation, and differentiation, from your competitors.
Outside the stadium, brands can target those users across multiple channels through Yahoo’s demand-side platform (DSP). Re-engaging fans across digital out-of-home, ConnectedTV, audio, native, video, and more, will leave fans with lasting memories that continue long after the final whistle.
The odds are in your favour
There’s a huge opportunity for brands to maximise the blurring of lines between the physical and the virtual, between live and not live, to create enriched experiences for their audiences and enriched ways of experiencing sport.
For marketers, it’s all about bringing fans closer to the things they love. Do that right and you’ll make customers even more fanatic about your brand than ever.
Piqued your interest? Contact Zoe on email@example.com to find out how Yahoo Creative Studios can help elevate your brand into the future.
* 2021 Yahoo & YouGov global study into immersive experiences, n=1000 consumers aged 13-65 y.o. (US, UK, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan & Australia)