Virtual Reality in Sports and Sports Marketing
Not so long ago data analysis was the new big thing in sports. As far as I’m concerned it is not anymore. Simply because today data analysis is widely accepted as a part of team roster design and enhanced game preparation that it would be foolish to oppose it.
Now, the new big thing in game preparation is the Virtual Reality. How? Well the answer can’t be explained in one sentence, that’s why I wrote this article.
With Virtual Reality sport practices will be a lot different and a whole lot safer. Each athlete could reenact and relive actual situations that happened on the pitch during the game in practice in order to either repair the previously made mistakes or to notice the mistakes opponents tend to make.
With Virtual Reality coaching staff will have an easier and better way to explain to the players what is expected from them and how it is expected of them to make it happen, while on the other hand players will also have a better way to word their concerns and observations.
In most of the sports it will be a lot easier to create, present and test many more different plays that should bring success during games. Some sports have been using computer animation to simulate real game situations to maximize their success. Some of these simulations reached amazing levels and were a very important preparation tool in racing sports.
But, instead of animated simulations, Virtual Reality offers similar, but improved game preparation tools with real video material filmed individually for each race track, opponent or player position, depending on the sport. It is easy to see that racing teams will be able to save money on unnecessary practice cars in case of crashes, while other teams will minimize the amount of unnecessary injuries to players during practices. On top of this, backup players will be able to experience the same game preparation as starters, improving the team as a whole.
Various Virtual Reality companies can proudly name different NFL, NBA, NHL, NASCAR, MLB and college sport franchises, as well as media organizations as their clients. All those franchises have been “sold” on the idea of Virtual Reality as a new tool to improve their results and they are ready to invest in this new technology and “bet” on its fast improvement.
What About Us, the Fans?
Well, firstly we will all be able to watch even better performances from the athletes we admire. But, as you noticed I also named media brands as clients of VR companies. Their plan is to offer fans a new way to experience actual sport events in a way that was so far reserved only to video games.
“The leagues, the broadcasters, the teams – we have yet to meet anybody who’s not excited about VR because the fan experience is so incredible and different from anything we’ve seen before. You go from being directed – someone is saying go to Camera 3 or Camera 4 – to being more of a full participant in the action. You’re able to watch the game” – Brad Allen, NextVR Executive Chairman
“People will quickly reject brands that don’t act a bit like an excited or knowledgeable fan in the next seat – albeit one who knows that they have to shut up at certain points in the game” – Omaid Hiwaizi, Blippar president of global marketing
Sports brands today have to create their own and original content that appeals to fans and feels close to fans, as if another fan in the stands gave them this information. Static approach doesn’t work anymore.
Every brands needs to follow the opportunities new technology offers and see the way they can use it to create content. Red Bull has always been an original company that leads the way in advertising with their approach.
The math here is very simple – fans are passionate about sports and there is a new technology that takes fans even closer to things they are passionate about – fans get even more passionate about sports they love – thus creating a new space for brands that offer this new experience.
These 360 VR videos became an instant viral hit among the target groups, and really I would waste both your time and mine trying to say something more, just watch:
The NBA already has a deal in place with Turner broadcasting that guarantees the media giants the rights to broadcast the NBA games with VR technology. Upon seeing previous few videos it is easy to imagine the fans’ reception of live game coverage with the same VR technology.
Ads can receive better response in VR. Many brands are figuring out a way to create virtual billboards for ads. Those VR billboards should be able to create targeted ads based on data analysis to target users that more likely to respond to them, while other users will at that same place see other ads they are more likely to respond to.
Microsoft is also developing their own VR technology. They presented their “HoloLens” during the last Super Bowl in order to give us a glimpse into the future of sport watching in the next 5 years. I! CAN’T! WAIT!
Facebook never fails to “play” in a new prosperous market. They saw VR as a technology with a huge potential, so they purchased Oculus VR for $2B.
Size of budgets and investments big tech companies like Microsoft and Facebook have reserved for VR development show they see it as technology of the future. Predictions suggest that the VR industry will generate about $30bn per year by the year 2020. It comes as no surprise that sport teams and sport brands already plan accordingly.
VR industry size in 2020 (in billions of US dollars)
Problems VR needs to solve
At the moment VR is still in development phase, and it faces problems that are far from unsolvable.
Firstly, it is not that practical and it is not cheap. Stanford research discovered that people tend to get tired of wearing a VR headset in about eight minutes, but expects agree, as anything related to technology, this will change very soon.
When professional athletes will use VR they surely don’t want a big headgear that will be uncomfortable to use. If something can be improved it is that.
Another issue VR faces is not that easy to “fix” and it can cause problems to both athletes during practices and to fans’ game watching experience – the “isolation issue”. People are “alone” when using VR devices since obviously their communication is very limited.
Since social network like Facebook is a big VR investor, naturally they saw virtual reality as a technology with possibility for social interaction through their platform. That is why Oculus developers are working to find a way to incorporate vocal interaction and access to social media networks. In other word they are trying to find a functioning solution for the “isolation issue”. This will allow groups of people to attend social or sport events together, wherever in the world they are or wherever in the world this event is taking place.
Scenarios that this technology will offer really are futuristic. Two Cheesehead-friends from Indonesia could finally attend an NFL game in Green Bay together or father living in London could going to a football game together with his son, living in LA.
Video quality for 360 cameras is still not good enough for a modern eye, spoiled with the HD, but if something grows fast it is technology, so no worries there.
Same as it was situation with data analysis, VR is here to stay and improve sport. And again same as data analysis it is here to improve sport for both “performers” and “fans”.
When Hollywood imagined the future, VR always had a big role in imagining that future. That future is now here and VR’s role is growing fast. It would be foolish to arrive late to the VR party.
“There’s a wow factor right away with this. We know that much, but the video quality still isn’t quite there yet, particularly on the live side. The technology still needs to catch up a bit. But things in this space are moving very fast. I would expect we’ll have a clearer direction in months, not years.” – Bob Chesterman, NHL senior vice president of programming and production
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