Since the release of Virtual Reality (VR) headsets in 2016 such as the Oculus Rift, VR has taken the sports industry to a different level. This gave fans an opportunity to get an experience which was once never considered possible.
The first time VR made its debut was in the 1990s, but it did not go well and it ended up being a failure. Right now, it looks like VR will be here to stay.
So how will VR affect the sports marketing industry?
Before the European Championship took place in 2016, Nike released an 360 degree advertising video named ‘Half-Time Speech’ ft. Arda Turan a 360º Virtual Reality Experience where fans get to experience what it is like to be in the changing room of the Turkish National Team, while Arda Turan, the captain of the Turkish National Team, inspires the team with a motivation speech.
At the end, the team goes into a huddle, and viewers will be in the right in the centre of an inspiring team moment.
When I watched the video, it honestly felt surreal, like as if I was there with them in the changing room, listening to Turan’s speech. I felt this was the moment where VR has changed sports marketing, and how companies will use VR to engage with sports fans.
VR would not only provide an opportunity for fans to experience sports on a different level, but sports marketing companies can use that as leverage to run ad campaigns and engage with sports fans. Many brands are looking into running VR billboards to target consumers who are more likely to respond to their campaigns through data analytics.
With VR being the upcoming way for companies to engage with sports fans, it’s no surprise to see companies like Microsoft and Facebook investing on VR. Microsoft released a video on how American Football fans might catch a game in the future.
With the “HoloLens”, which isn’t released for the public yet, fans can choose to see real time statistics, highlights and also get to view the game from different angles that cannot be viewed when fans are in the stadium.
With the ability to find out exactly what viewers are looking at, companies can customize and market their products based on the behaviour of these consumers. They can make purchases to put up digital advertisements during the time where specific players or on the court, or timings of the game, based on their research on the optimal place or time to place these ads.
Besides sports marketing, it has also made a lot of impact in the sports industry in general. In the 2016-2017 NBA season, fans were given an opportunity to watch 1 game every week in VR with no additional cost ($200 for annual NBA League pass). This made them the first league in sports to ever have VR games broadcasted live.
Based on statistics provided by Brandon Gaille, the salary range of NBA fans is $100k+ which is only higher than fans who watch NASCAR in the US. This made it more sensible for fans to watch NBA matches through the annual NBA League pass than to purchase season tickets. This was a great play made by the NBA as they knew exactly the behaviour of their audience and how they could reach out to that audience.
Lastly, VR will also change how athletes train. You must be wondering, how so? Well, VR can help by putting these players in game situations and players can watch and learn how they can improve their game.
Players will get a chance to watch these videos on repeat, and find out the opportunities they did not see during the game, and learn from them. Coaches can use VR to see weaknesses of the opposition team, and how they can set their team up before the next game.
In conclusion, VR will be the future of sports in general, and many sports marketing companies will look to using VR to run advertisements and marketing campaigns. With VR, it will take engagement between fans and the sport they love to a whole new level.