Immersive technology in sports could be one of the applications that give augmented reality / virtual reality (AR / VR) a boost.
As we published in Gartner’s top 10 technology trends of 2018, the AR / VR market is currently adolescent and fragmented. Interest is high, resulting in many novelty VR applications that deliver little real business value outside of advanced entertainment, such as video games and 360-degree spherical videos. However, an augmented/virtual reality report published earlier this year by Digi-Capital suggests that mobile AR could become the primary driver of a US$108 billion VR/AR market by 2021.
So will the sports industry be one of the first to exploit the benefits of mobile AR? According to the Sport Innovation Network, there has been a surge in recent weeks as some of the world leading soccer clubs have launched their own immersive technology projects.
Italian giants Juventus FC launched their virtual reality app earlier this month which takes users onto the match-day pitch, behind the scenes at training and into the middle of its Serie A Championship celebrations. In providing 360 degree access they create unseen and emotional connectivity to the club. This can make huge waves on a club’s digital footprint and their ability to engage more keenly with their digital following.
“The potential (for VR) is enormous for a club like Juventus, where 80 percent of our 50 million followers on digital platforms lives outside Italy,” said Federico Palomba, co-chief revenue officer, Juventus
This is echoed by German club FC Bayern releasing the latest version of the team’s iOS app. This has an AR feature to bring either team captain Manuel Neuer or forward Arjen Robben into their selfies, alongside the option to pick one of the club’s three jerseys in the photos to personalize and screenshot the number and name on the back of the jerseys.
“We believe that AR could be key for us in the near future. We’re already thinking about the merchandising experience via AR and how that could potentially work with sponsors when it comes to exporting the logos of our partners,” commented Stefan Mennerich, director of media digital & communications, Bayern Munich.
Although not a fully fledged commercial revenue drive, the app is the first step towards discovering the commercial potential in immersive technology. With the updates in the operating system as Apple has done recently, it enables brands to add such features to their apps, which will help push immersive technology to the masses.
With the enablement of fan engagement on mobile, in the stadium and then on social media, this makes it a good use case for AR. Sports clubs and franchises will no doubt quickly realize the huge business potential from this capability to capture, engage and then ultimately commercialize via these platforms.
Many of the early immersive technology movers in the sports space are focussed on training and enhancing physical/skill performance. There is now a swing towards fan engagement and how it can be optimized to create an enhanced digital platform for fan and brand engagement.
The role of VR and AR is a continual theme at the World Virtual & Augmented Reality Sports Innovation Summit, to be held in San Francisco on 15-16 November, 2017. With 50 speakers and over 200 senior executives from sport, technology, global brands and broadcasting registered to attend. The summit will showcase the latest in immersive technology, alongside commercial, marketing and performance strategies from the global sports industry. For more information and to register for the summit please click here.