Breathing Life Into The Stale Sports Activation Scene

Have you experienced a fan festival or any number of sports activations taking place in and around the stadium? Chances are, if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.

If I had to use one word to describe much of what I’ve seen over the past couple years, I’d say it’s cookie-cutter. Brands are sticking with the same old formula for sports activations and consumers can taste the staleness. Today, brands need to stand out to rise above the clutter and realize the maximum ROI.

Sports activations aren’t meant to simply disrupt the consumer. They’re made to provide an experience that brings fans closer to the game and closer to their favorite teams and players. You can throw a football or take a free throw anywhere you’d like. We need to give them something they can’t experience anywhere else. Something they are compelled to share.

What do those experiences look like and how can brands tap into fans’ passion points authentically? I’ll give you a taste.

Viewing in Virtual Reality

How can we change the viewing experience for fans? How can we bring them closer to the action? One answer lies in virtual reality. For the first time ever, the NBA is offering live virtual reality viewing for one game each week. It began in October 2016 and is available to those with the NBA League Pass.

All consumers need is a VR headset and they’re free to view the games from a variety of unique angles including courtside at center court. Imagine yourself taking in a Lakers game with A-list regulars like Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Denzel Washington.

If brands really want to stand out at the game, they’ll need to provide similar experiences. This can be anything from running through the tunnel with the team or getting announced in the starting lineup. This is the type of viewing experience that fans aren’t afforded elsewhere. There needs to be more of this!

Measure Up to Your Idols

We all have a hard time relating to our favorite athletes. Many of them are famous, hang out with celebrities, and live a life we wish we could experience. What we need to do is make them more relatable. 

Combine Comparisons

How freakishly athletic are your favorite athletes? We’ve seen the numbers they put up at the combine. We see their skill and fluidity played out on the field or court. What we don’t see is how we actually measure up to them.

Not everyone can bench press 225 pounds, so let’s use the 40-yard dash as an example. Let’s let fans test their speed against the fastest wide receivers and even some of the slower offensive linemen.

Cost aside, creating this experience isn’t difficult. Here’s how it would look:

  • Set up a 40-yard long digital screen 
  • Film various players like Beckham taking their 40-yard sprint
  • Have fans select who they want to race
  • Fans run their own 40-yard dash while the player avatar runs parallel to them

Alone, running a 40-yard dash is nothing special. When you’re able to tie that basic experience into something or someone that fans feel passionate about, that’s when you’ve accomplished something special.

Living the Pro Life

At this year’s College Football Playoff National Championship in Tampa, most brands were there with a cookie-cutter mentality. There was one, in particular, that bucked the trend: ESPN’s Nissan Heisman House.

It was here that I watched a colleague of mine sit in a Nissan Rogue with a 3D avatar of her favorite Heisman winner sitting shotgun. Can you imagine hanging out with the likes of Tim Tebow or Cam Newton? Or being able to make your friends think you did?

This is the type of experience that fans aren’t afforded elsewhere. It brings elements of the sport to life that exist only in our imagination. That’s what these experiences are meant to do, right? Unlock our imagination and bring us closer to the games and athletes we love.

It’s time we throw out the cookie cutters and strive for something beyond the ordinary. When we accomplish that, we create a whole new definition of fan experience. For that, you can count me in.

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