AR Will Enhance Sports Experiences this Summer

by Bas Gezelle

This summer is full of major sporting events such as the Olympics and the European Football Championship. This coincides with the growing traction and adoption around augmented reality. How will these two worlds come together? How will AR enable fans to support and experience their favorite teams and players in more interactive ways? Here are five ways this will play out.

1. AR Drives Virtual Fandom

Being a fan means supporting a team or club unconditionally and showing that to everyone. Of course, fans already do this with shirts, caps and flags. AR can provide another surface for fandom: faces and bodies can be tracked and virtually adorned with team colors or apparel. Additionally, AR can place a fan in the middle of a stadium or surrounded by his or her favorite athletes. And of course, these experiences can be shared through social channels, as shown in the Paris Saint-Germain and Unibet example below.

The same face tracking can also be used to play games. The face becomes a controller through which virtual games can be played, as shown in these examples from the Miami Dolphins or Bayern Munich.

2. At-Home Viewing is Immersive with AR

As soon as a game or match starts, lots of activity happens on-screen. But brands can also enrich the viewing experience around and outside of the screen. There may be additional information about teams and players that can be revealed in AR. The example below from Red Bull shows one way this can be done.

In addition to information, athletes themselves can also stand in a fan’s room before or during games and matches. Athletes can be recorded as 3D and viewed from every angle. This is demonstrated in the example below of Pepsi and Lays with a Messi and Pogba. Other examples are Siert Vos of Ziggo Sports, or these NFL players during the Super Bowl doing crazy dances at a fan’s house. Naturally, these experiences can all be shared for an additional viral kick.

In addition to placing fans in a stadium, as shown earlier, the stadium or dressing room can be brought to the fan through AR portals. This lets fans walk through a virtual door via mobile AR interfaces. This lets them transport themselves to a new venue, as shown in the NBA and NFL portals below.

3. AR Fan Experiences are Anywhere, on Everything

The stadium itself can also offer a fan experience in AR. Buildings are completely mapped so that the AR experience connects seamlessly with the physical world, as shown in this AT&T Samsung experience. Additionally, any object including consumer products can be the basis for an AR experience. Each package of a product can trigger an AR experience like this game on a Red Bull can or an NHL ice hockey match on a six-pack.

4. Make an Experience of Wearing and Buying Merchandise

AR portals provide access to not only the stadium, but also to the fan store. And with increasingly better AR tracking in platforms such as Spark AR and Lens Studio, merchandise can be tried on reliably. This underscores one of AR’s inherent advantages in commerce scenarios: it can enhance all phases of the customer journey from awareness to conversion. It does this by supporting discovery, awareness, consideration (try-ons) and direct purchases.

Beyond physical products, AR supports virtual apparel. For example, Gucci’s “Gucci Virtual 25” sneakers can only be experienced virtually. Snapchat similarly has special outfits for its Bitmojis with fashion brands like Ralph Lauren and Levis designing the virtual styles. This concept could apply well to fan merchandise or other fan experiences such as virtually becoming your favorite team’s mascot.

5. Make the Athlete Better and the Experience More Fun

3D video can be used to transfer the skills of athletes to their fans. AR’s ability to capture and view athletes from every angle — as noted earlier — means that fans can better view and learn from their signature moves. That one bicycle kick or save from a keeper can be viewed and emulated in greater dimension. Verizon has already gotten started on a similar concept, with an app that tracks professional golf swings in AR.

Lastly, body tracking in AR is not just used for fun and shopping, but also to track athletic metrics. For example, workouts can be gamified using AR. These Snapchat Lenses from Nike can count the number of squats, and gamify jumping over hurdles.

The possibilities continue to expand for AR’s role in the fan experience, and that will escalate in this summer’s sporting season. As that draws closer, AR will help boost the anticipation, enrich the competition and — above all –make it shareable.

Bas Gezelle is strategy & content lead and partner at PLAYAR, an AR studio that creates AR activations for agencies, media and brands.

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