Wasserman and Immersive Experiential partnered to produce the Microsoft Creator’s Lab at the NFL Experience in Houston last month.
Featuring a projection dome and an interactive product showcase, the NFL Experience allowed fans to engage with a suite of Microsoft Surface products. Using Sketchable and Paint 3D, visitors had the opportunity to design football helmets, cleats, and jerseys, which were prominently displayed on the massive dome.
Two winning cleat designs were brought to life by artist Marcus Rivero for Devonta Freeman of the Atlanta Falcons and Malcolm Butler of the New England Patriots to wear during Super Bowl weekend. In addition, the event included a Game Before the Game showdown between players Martellus Bennett and Vic Beasley on Madden NFL 17.
Chris Beeby, a creative technologist from Wasserman, explained that the genesis of the Microsoft Creator’s Lab started with two questions: “How do we engage with the NFL fans? How do we inspire them to express their creativity?”
“What worked really well was the hybrid of experiential and digital coming to life,” Beeby said of the Microsoft Creator’s Lab. “It’s important to start with the idea. We call it a human-first approach. Instead of thinking about the technology, we want to ensure that we’re putting the consumer first. (Engaging) consumers through the lens of their passion is well-received and often an integral part of a campaign’s success.
“(With experiential activations) it’s about having some sort of take-away so that sports fans feel like they achieved something. The immediate payoff of creating an awesome helmet design is seeing it projected larger than life and having the video DJ comment on it. (The participants) all invested far more time and came away with more brand love.”
Beeby also offered his insights on how experiential activations are evolving in the sports technology realm.
“When we think about human-first and avoiding technology for technology’s sake, we need to remember what the story is for the brand, what its reason is for being there, and how (the company) wants to tap into the consumer’s mindset and behavior,” he said.
Wasserman is currently developing the USOC’s PyeongChang Event Series for the 2018 Winter Olympics, which kicks off Nov. 1 in Times Square. Participants will enter a 15-foot inflatable snow globe where they will experience what it’s like to be an Olympic ski jumper through 4D virtual reality.
“Being able to put them in the boots of a ski jumper and give them even the slightest sensation of what it’s like showcases the power of VR,” Beeby said.
“Activations are powerful because they allow consumers to step inside and experience the brand first-hand. When you tap into their passion points naturally, then you turn consumers into fans. You’re an intrinsic part of the sport that they love. Once you do that, the fans become far more loyal to you as a brand.”
Beeby closed with a cautionary note on how technology risks overshadowing brand identity.
“We’re very quickly going to get outside of the honeymoon of (AR and VR) technology. Right now, there is a danger of technology taking away from some of the brand stories and brand love,” he explained.
“Technology is agnostic. Any brand can utilize AR and VR. Everyone is obsessed because they think that these are portals to wowing consumers and gateways to millennials.
“Experiential activations require great storytelling and creativity that’s bolted into the brand’s objectives. Incredible content is essential.”