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The Digital Revolution in Sports: Navigating New Spectator Experiences

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By Vinayak Shrivastav, Co-founder and CEO, VideoVerse

Science states humans are inclined to dream and yearn for experiences beyond the constraints of reality. Interestingly, our perception of reality is shaped by the information gathered from our senses and actions, forming the environment we perceive. What happens when sensory input is tailored? Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are born. Both virtual and augmented reality enable users to immerse themselves in computer-generated environments with respect to the sports landscape. In 2022, the worldwide market for Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR) was valued at USD 31,491.6 million. The total amount is anticipated to reach USD 220,496.0 million by 2028, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 38.31%.

It promises to elevate the fan’s experience, offering a more engaging and interactive perspective on sporting events. Broadcasters have been integrating AR and VR to offer viewers a heightened, interactive, and immersive viewing encounter. In December 2022, AR application in sports was seen with the Los Angeles Rams’ adoption of this technology at SoFi Stadium. Collaborating with AR firm 8i, the Rams introduced a virtual experience via the stadium’s app. The app granted users access to AR features, including virtual player locker rooms and interactive play diagrams, amplifying their game-day involvement. Imagine the thrill of being an O-liner to Matthew Stafford.

Fan adventures
AR, VR, and XR technologies are recalibrating sports training for athletes and coaches. Using three-dimensional tech, VR simulations offer immersive, controlled environments for skill enhancement. This translates to improved player performance along with enriched viewing experiences. By incorporating haptic feedback tools, sensors, and artificial intelligence, teams and athletes can swiftly collect comprehensive data on a player’s techniques and approaches during training. The NBA’s NextVR partnership offers fans virtual game attendance with customisable viewing. Virtual Court-side experiences deeply engage fans, including 360-degree views and real-time stats.

The NFL, and Google provide fans a 360-degree view of the game through Google Cardboard. AR and VR technologies are being utilised by sports entities for virtual fan engagement, as shown by this immersive experience that enables real-time interaction with the game. The technology allows fans to feel excitement from unique perspectives, such as that of a player or referee. Additionally, it streamlines the creation of virtual reality games and challenges, allowing fans to participate energetically.

Just Tap an App
VR and AR also present unprecedented sponsorship and marketing avenues in the sports sector. It empowers brands to offer immersive and engaging advertising encounters, setting new standards for audience engagement. Adidas implemented an AR-driven activation at soccer matches, enabling fans to virtually try on soccer shoes through an AR app. The interactive experience garnered widespread attention on social media, enhancing brand visibility. Fans were directed to Adidas booths during the campaign, strengthening their relationship with the brand. The AR activation greatly impacted fan engagement, leading to increased brand affinity, foot traffic, and sales growth for Adidas. ‘Impossible is Nothing’ indeed.

XR Unleashed
Web-based XR has emerged as a favourite mode to engage fans, offering advantages like cross-device accessibility without specialised hardware or downloads. The accessibility makes it a dynamic marketing tool seeking broad reach and, in some cases, extends beyond marketing, presenting opportunities for revenue growth in sports brands. It facilitates developing and marketing digital goods, such as jerseys or player collectibles, while expanding the possibilities for XR-specific sponsorship and brand partnerships. Additionally, sports brands can craft exclusive XR experiences and events for fan participation. XR potentially diversifies revenue streams, broadens audience reach, and fosters business expansion in the sports industry, delivering immersive experiences for fans in the digital era.

Into the future
The imperative next question is, what lies hereof? The answer is simple: Technology is getting savvier than you can envisage. A wealth of no-code and low-code tools shall magnify experiences.

The revolutionary technology, Extended Reality (XR), which includes Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and Mixed Reality (MR), is defining the future of sports. By embracing the evolving trends in XR and adopting a forward-looking approach, sports brands can position themselves as pioneers in the XR revolution within the sports industry. Empowered to establish deeper connections with fans, boost engagement, and unlock fresh opportunities for immersive and influential sports marketing experiences.

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