Immersive Storytelling: How XR enriches fan experiences

Toni Spyra
Toni Spyra
July 18, 2022

It's no wonder we love digital technology: It allows us to immerse ourselves in another world, to dream, to learn, or to be entertained. Immersive storytelling and gamification are two aspects that build on this fascination and play a key role in XR applications. In this article, we explain what these concepts mean and how they work.

Fan Engagement and Social AR 

Fans around the world had a rough time in 2020 and 2021. Although sports events took place despite the Corona pandemic, the right feeling always comes from connecting with other fans. The Social AR campaign by MonkeyXR and Sky Sport Bundesliga showed how to make fan experiences possible even when stadium visits are not possible.

Fans were encouraged to express their sympathies for their teams on both Facebook and Instagram by using face filters in the team colors, as well as play little mini-games between halves to pass the time. There was a sense of community and emotional sharing that could be created even if fans could not be together in the stadium during this time.

Well-done XR campaigns can easily become a viral phenomenon. In the case of the cooperation with Sky Sport Bundesliga, it worked: The filters were shared millions of times during the match season, giving the brand more exposure beyond the intended target group.

Gamification and XR

As another way to bring sports experiences into the home during pandemic times, American Express partnered with the Wimbledon tennis tournament. In an AR game, players could learn how to hit correctly from a hologram of world-class tennis star Andy Murray. Murray's character was rendered using volumetric capturing, a recording technique that convincingly renders three-dimensional figures from any angle – no matter how the user moves the smartphone. 

The game was developed using 8th Wall's Web AR framework. This meant that users did not need their own app, but could run the AR experience directly in their smartphone's browser – allowing easy access via a QR code.

Aside from offering excellent gameplay with an integrated leaderboard (which included Murray's personal high score), the virtual world was also impressive: players were given the opportunity to step onto one of the most famous tennis courts in the world, Wimbledon. 

Immersive storytelling and XR

Every brand tries to tell a story – some do it really well, some fail. These stories should always be authentic, relatable, and thrilling, just like good books, great songs, and great movies. But what if you could put your customers at the center of the story? The attribute »immersive« expresses an important element of storytelling: XR technologies make it possible to give stories a special sense of presence. Because an XR application mixes the events with reality directly in front of the viewer's eyes, the viewer has a different feeling of »being there«: he is not just watching a movie, he is part of it.

The AR campaign of the Carolina Panthers, a U.S. football team from North Carolina, shows how this can work: A spectacular XR experience brings the team's mascot to life and lets it virtually climb the walls of the stadium. The 3D-animated feline moves on a digitally recreated floor plan of the stadium, so that the movements look very natural, regardless of the viewing angle. Location-based AR is possible wherever such a virtual replica of a place exists. A 5G network at the location enables the data speed required for this.

The fact that it is not just any Panther, but the Panther of the Carolina Panthers, who is jumping through the team's own stadium, contributes greatly to the emotionalization and identification with the campaign. A story is told through the form: about the team, its fans and their shared place.

Key takeaways: Fan engagement, gamification, and immersive storytelling with XR

These examples illustrate that XR can do more than an ordinary TV commercial, even if it is technically complex to produce: The experience of participating directly in the action is more intense than passively consuming a commercial – and of course this also interests potential sponsors and advertising partners. 

Let's take a look at the benefits:

  • Fans can use Social AR filters to immerse themselves in the cosmos of their favourite team or any other world from anywhere and share their passion with other fans (and non-fans)
  • Gamification enhances the entertainment factor, creates a positive brand experience, and increases dwell time. Volumetric capturing allows fans to interact with their favourite star or even take a selfie with them.
  • Many smartphones support web AR applications in the browser, and AR applications will also work even better on the move and at events such as sporting events or festivals in the future as the roll-out of the 5G network progresses.

Whether Wimbledon, Sky Sport Bundesliga or American football: XR applications for fans are already being used in many places – with success. The fact that the smartphone in your pocket will soon offer a little extra entertainment at every sporting event could soon seem as normal to fans as the anticipation of a game involving their favourite team. 

Get in touch with our team to learn more about how XR can help your brand. Find out more about XR in our FAQ.