Augmented Reality and Sport: A Brave New World

By The Earnie Team

What is Augmented Reality (AR)?

Augmented reality is technology that allows data, such as images or information, to be overlaid on the real world. But the way it can connect sports, sponsors and fans is so much more. By utilising devices such as smartphones, screens and VR headsets AR changes the perception of the physical world to emotionally connect in ways never dreamed possible. I’m sure at this point you’re thinking Snapchat filters and Pokemon Go and you would be right, but advanced AR has a set of applications that can be leveraged effectively in sport. The entertainment calendar has become saturated to the point where sports are not only competing with other events but with a huge number of entertainment options. Additionally the amount of rights within the sport industry is continually expanding, making it more difficult for brands to achieve cut through. So, how can sports and brands use this technology to help engage fans?

How can brands use AR to activate?

AR can be used to gamify fans’ experience around events, affording them the opportunity to respond to calls of action during an organic experience. Since AR is a visual experience, we’ve compiled some clips where brands and sports have surprised and delighted consumers.

One method is to create bespoke Pokemon Go like experiences, such as Candy Lab’s (http://www.candylab.com/) innovative beacon based system, which works indoors and outdoors. This new type of ‘Advanced AR’ will distributed by Augmeant in the UK (http://augmeant.co.uk/) in the spring. Fans can search for offers, specialised content and games all skinned in a client’s branding allowing brands to tell their story in a fun and engaging way.

Brands can bring people closer to their heroes – an opportunity that the majority of fans would otherwise be unlikely to experience. Samsung did this with Gabriel Medina allowing fans to pose with the surfer during big events.

Another great example, although not sports related, is PepsiMax’s takeover of a bus stop. Instead of aliens and tigers this could be done with famous sporting moments (wouldn’t it be great to watch Beckham’s famous free-kick against Greece from the goalkeeper’s perspective?).

This technology can be beneficial for the rights holders themselves. According to Forbes magazine (Forbes), “developing unique content, rewards, and information that can be only obtained by coming to a venue provides a new reason for fans to leave their houses during games.” The Brisbane Heat were able to achieve this by creating player trading cards that when seen through a smartphone app become animated.

Changing the way we watch sport

Since the arrival of televised sport, the way we consume live sport has more or less stayed the same. The majority of the advancements have related to improvements in picture quality, number of formats, camera angles and availability of the stream. However, the introduction of augmented reality can fundamentally change the way we watch sport. Chris Kluwe, a former NFL player and tech enthusiast, is a proponent of AR as a means of building empathy with fans (Ted Talk below). Until now fans  watching on TV cannot understand how fast a 90mph cricket ball feels for a batsman or how high Rafael Nadal’s forehand kicks up. Combining AR and VR means that fans can get a more immersive viewing experience from the point of view of the athlete. Combining this with the Oculus Rift can provide the ultimate viewing experience for the sports fan.

AR has the potential to change the way consumers engage with brands across a number of industries, but none more so than sport. In an ever increasingly saturated space, rights holders will have to find ways to bring fans closer to the action. AR represents an exciting prospect for fans and brands because it largely uses smartphone cameras making it much more accessible to consumers than VR. The success of Pokemon Go has shown us that AR can engage consumers in a way few other mediums can. Now the technology is more advanced, more available and more accepted, those who don’t use it will face real commercial decisions.