How virtual and augmented reality are taking fan engagement to the next level

How virtual and augmented reality are taking fan engagement to the next level

The digital age has ushered in a new era for sports, where fans are no longer confined by the physical limitations of the stadium or their living room couch. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are rapidly transforming the way fans experience their favourite teams and athletes, offering unprecedented levels of immersion and interactivity, as well as the potential for new revenue generation.

In this blog we look at five ways in which AR and VR can be used to deliver better fan experiences, enhance fan connection with clubs, leagues, teams and event venues, drive new revenue opportunities as part of your market engagement activities.

Unparalleled Experiences and New Revenue Streams:

Imagine stepping onto the court virtually, feeling the electricity of the crowd as you watch a game winning shot or relive a legendary play from your favourite player’s perspective. AR and VR can make these experiences a reality for fans, regardless of location. This new type of access can be monetised through premium virtual tickets that offer unique camera angles, replays, and interactive elements.

Credit: Bob Donnan, USA TODAY Sports

The National Basketball Association (NBA) rolled out VR options for fans during the 2024 All-Star Weekend. Fans purchased access to VR experiences that allowed them to virtually step onto the court during the iconic Slam Dunk Contest and attempt dunks themselves. They could also visit iconic NBA locations and receive behind-the-scenes access to players and coaches, demonstrating the additional value that can be offered through premium virtual ticketing.

Deeper Engagement and Increased Loyalty:

Beyond the thrill of virtual presence, AR and VR allow fans to personalise their experience. They can choose camera angles, interact with virtual elements within the stadium environment, and even revisit iconic moments from their team's history. This level of personalisation fosters a deeper connection with their favourite teams and athletes, potentially leading to increased loyalty and merchandise sales. Fantasy sports leagues have begun incorporating AR elements to enhance the experience for participants. These features, such as overlaying player statistics onto the live game broadcast, further personalise the experience and increase engagement with the sport.

Credit: Gerard Escaich Folch, Catalan News

FC Barcelona have created a great example of this with their Barça Virtual Zone where fans can virtually tour the iconic Camp Nou stadium as avatars, as well as re-live historic games, witnessing iconic victories and goals in VR. As virtual guests they can participate in interactive experiences that deepen their connection with the club.

Reaching New Audiences and Gaining a Competitive Edge:

The immersive and interactive nature of AR and VR is particularly appealing to younger, tech-savvy demographics who are accustomed to engaging with the digital world. This opens up new avenues for sports organisations to reach a wider audience and expand their fan base. AR and VR provide a unique competitive edge by allowing organisations to differentiate themselves from competitors and attract sponsors through innovative placements within the virtual environment.

Some examples of this include:

Credit: Sony
  •  Several European football clubs, including Manchester City and FC Bayern Munich, offer virtual tours of their stadiums and facilities through VR experiences. These tours allow fans from all over the world to explore these iconic locations, allowing them to increase the interest in their club and attract new supporters.
Credit: Sense Arena
  • Bolstering its presence in the VR sports landscape, the National Hockey League (NHL) recently partnered with Sense Arena to launch its own VR hockey platform. This features training drills, multiplayer competitions, and access to iconic NHL locations; catering to both players and fans who are seeking an immersive hockey experience.

Innovative In-Person Experiences Using AR/VR:

Credit: Netaverse

The boundaries between the physical and virtual worlds are further dissolving with the use of AR/VR in live sporting events. The NBA Brooklyn Nets offer fans a 360-degree experience to watch live games together in the metaverse, showcasing angles that are impossible when watching on a TV or computer. In another example, tech giant Meta recently joined US sports broadcaster ESPN to bring a sports-themed VR experience to the Meta Quest platform. This allows viewers and their friends to enjoy a courtside or endzone VR experience which gives them a similar experience to physically attending the match. Innovative approaches such as these allows fans to feel a sense of community and shared experience, even when physically located far apart.

Data-Driven Insights and Continuous Innovation:

Credit: FIFA+

AR and VR experiences are not just entertainment; they also generate valuable data on fan behaviour and preferences within the platform. This data can be used to inform marketing and sales strategies, allowing organisations to tailor their offerings and build communities as well as improve revenue potential. As AR and VR technologies continue to evolve, we canexpect even more innovative applications in the sports industry, constantly blurring the lines between the physical and digital worlds and fostering a truly immersive and interactive future for sports fans.

Are you ready to adopt AR and VR?

There are many opportunities that AR and VR will create for athletes, teams, clubs, leagues, venues and fans. If you would like to understand how you can best adopt and maximise the potential of this new technology, contact us for more information.

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