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While some events returned with a degree of normalcy – in some cases welcoming fans back in-person – most of the sports industry’s major players were forced to adapt to vastly different landscapes with radically altered fan touchpoints.
For broadcasters and brands in particular, this new era of fan experience raised critical questions around how to manage fan expectations, create memorable experiences, and intrigue the next generation of sports enthusiasts on a playing field that looked dramatically different.
For several innovative brands and broadcasters, the responses to these were realised in the opportunities offered by extended reality – from reinventing the viewing experience to creating entirely new ways to engage fans and grow audiences.
The past year demonstrated how immersive experiences are already becoming an essential part of the sports viewing landscape, with today’s fans keen to interact and participate – wherever they are in the world. And for tech-savvy younger viewers in particular – already accustomed to virtual world experience – extended reality offers an exciting opportunity for brands and broadcasters to pique the interest of the next generation of sports fans.
This summer, we had the pleasure of collaborating on a number of exciting, groundbreaking projects using extended reality to enhance the broadcast experience and create interesting new touchpoints to connect with fans. We explore three of them below.
*Scroll to the bottom for an overview of some of the terms and acronyms we’ll be throwing your way below
In the lead-up to ‘The Hundred’ – a new cricket competition created to make the sport more accessible and interactive – the English Cricket Board (ECB) and Sky Sports unveiled exciting hyper-real avatars of the players, to be used during the live broadcast editorial and available to fans as a mobile AR experience.
The avatars gave Sky Sports’ analysts an innovative way to explain and explore the techniques used by the cricketers live on-air. Fans could also interact with the avatars and explore each player's cricket skills in an AR experience in The Hundred app and on Sky Sports’ digital platforms.
To bring the world's top cricketers to life as realistic avatars, Sky Sports and The ECB used MetaStar – our proprietary hyper-real avatar solution – to create 22 hyper-real avatars and 70 animations of cricket’s biggest stars performing at ‘The Hundred’. The result was a mixed reality Avatar experience on a scale never seen before in sport.
Looking for a way to engage fans who were unable to attend Wimbledon in person, American Express launched ‘Champion’s Rally’ – an AR mobile game with a volumetric capture of Wimbledon Champion Andy Murray coaching fans on how to play.
This virtual experience brought fans straight to the action on centre court – wherever they were. All that was needed was a phone to scan a QR code and players could meet Andy Murray for a virtual and gameplay experience on the iconic grounds.
We provided volumetric capture of the two-time Wimbledon champion in collaboration with Momentum Worldwide and integrated with 8th Wall’s webAR.
Scope 2.0 technology back for the 149th Open golf championship. First launched in 2019, Sky Scope shaped the way fans and Sky Sports commentators view golfers techniques and swing.
This year, we took our Polymotion Truck directly on the practice range to capture the golf pros in a matter of minutes. Within 48 hours the volumetric captures were used live on-air with layered data visualisation showing the swing path on-screen.
The groundbreaking broadcast tool Sky Scope 2.0 used cutting-edge volumetric capture technology to level up Sky Sports’ on-screen live performance analysis of golf’s biggest stars. The highly realistic, captured avatars allowed the broadcast team to track, pause, analyse and use data visualisation for each golfer from every possible angle.
The XR games have already begun and we’re excited for more collaboration with the innovative brands and broadcasters who are embracing new technologies to enhance the viewer experience and engage fans. In the post-pandemic age, the future of sports is looking virtual and the possibilities within this landscape are endless.