Racers in giant, state-of-the-art sailboats use the power of the water and wind to skim across the glittering waters of San Francisco Bay, and around iconic bridges, green islands and headlands. Fans cheer and listen to the onboard conversations and strategies of their favorite teams. It is the 34th America's Cup -- on mobile.
This delivery of real-time action, driven by accurate geo data, live onboard cameras and integrated audio, takes the mobile experience to new levels. There is a microphone on each crew member, to bring people closer to the action. While audio is now a popular feature in auto racing, it is even more critical for the Cup.
“It is very exciting to be able to offer high-definition cameras and audio,” said Ian Burns, Director of Performance at ORACLE TEAM USA. “The ability to listen and see the race from different angles and vantage points enhances the intimacy, so fans can get a better idea of how much action is actually occurring, how close the boats are to one another, and that these are true athletes competing at a very high level.”
This new blend of sports, entertainment and mobile is proving to be a winning combination for both fans and sponsors.
For many brands, sports fans are the ultimate target. This is especially true of the highly educated and affluent Cup fans. America’s Cup sponsors include Louis Vuitton, PUMA, Starwood Hotels, Tag Heuer, Prada, PWC, and Charles Schwab. Burns cautioned that while connecting sponsors with the apps is key, they must be integrated in such a way that enhances, rather than interferes with the mobile experience for the user.
Recognizing this new reality, Visa led the way with its effective integration of mobile into its Olympic sponsorship, and then maximizing it with social media. This year’s London Olympics enhanced the status of mobile as a key way to connect with the games. According to recently released data, the overwhelming majority of visitors to the Olympics website accessed it via mobile. The Olympics app was downloaded 15 million times, achieving the number one ranking in seven countries. Using the Join In app, 66,000 unique visitors rang a digital bell to welcome in the Games.
Viewers, whether they are at the live event or watching on television, are increasingly likely to interact with and share content via mobile. There is a growing demand for up-to-the-moment results, stats, videos and backgrounders on favorite athletes. People want a range of information in real-time at their fingertips.
America’s Cup Director of Internet and Social Media Peter Rusch says that “America’s Cup has always been at the forefront of communications technology to share in the action and tell the story. The goal of these mobiles apps was to bring sailing closer to people.”
For the Cup, the aim of the game was to educate novice fans, connecting new, younger audiences to the sport,
while also engaging the veteran sailor, making the sport more exciting and fun to watch. In the America’s Cup app game, players must take advantage of the strong
and steady winds, steer the quickest course, and avoid a catastrophic capsize. Then, fans participate further by sharing scores via Facebook. Social media calls-to-action are key for every marketer and must be included on apps, ads, coupons, videos and other mobile experiences. This greatly enhances the popularity, efficacy and ROI of campaigns.
Viewers in-the-moment will not tolerate long app download times, cautioned Burns. “The requirement to keep the two apps separate was to minimize the size of the download.” It is important to offer multiple mobile apps: one with featured content including the latest news, and one with games that are easy to play, but difficult to master.
Future plans include adding a new dimension in the form of historical narrative, and a geo-cache scavenger hunt contest. “Augmented reality is very hot for app development right now,” said Burns.
“Spectators can now access live data on their mobile devices coming directly from the boats they are watching racing in front of them,” says Stephen Barclay, CEO of the America’s Cup. “We will continue to develop technologies like this to bring this sport to life in an informative and entertaining way.” Next summer, enhanced apps will be available where viewers can point their phone at a boat and then connect to 3D graphics, animation and audio from that particular racing team.
Next summer, America’s Cup is anticipated to be the most spectacular one yet, held in San Francisco, a city that blends innovation and technology, with great design -- just like the best approaches to mobile marketing.