David Beckham is certainly no stranger to grabbing headlines. But the former England captain recently captured the public’s attention in a rather unexpected way thanks to a special interview with Sky Sports.
Fans of Beckham have long craved to get up-close-and-personal and, thanks to Sky, this dream has now become a (virtual) reality. Last month, the broadcaster’s newly-created VR studio played host to an exclusive VR interview with the global icon, shown on Facebook 360.
Sure, it was a great stunt, but the significance of this event runs much deeper. Sky’s extensive investment and pioneering use of the technology should serve as a wake-up call to brands and marketers alike. Virtual reality’s time is now, and VR streaming in particular is set to explode into the mainstream very soon.
Without doubt, VR streaming will completely transform live events: the possibilities are just endless. The burgeoning technology has the ability to provide a worldwide audience with a highly immersive first person experience from an incredibly unique perspective.
We’re already beginning to see some great examples of this in the world of sports. In the States, Greenfish Labs has worked with the Hershey Bears to deliver 360 VR experiences that offer ice hockey fans the chance to view games from between the benches and have complete control over their point of view. Closer to home, startup LiveLike has just offered Manchester City fans the chance to trial VR devices in a bid to add a whole new dimension to Premier League matches.
But sporting events are just the tip of the iceberg. Very soon, any mass audience event – be it a music festival, the Grand Prix or the opera – could be broadcast live to a global audience via VR streaming.
For many of us, it’s no longer just the product itself we consider when we’re making a purchasing decision – it’s now experiences that matter. Live VR streaming can deliver highly memorable moments laden with tantalising brand extension possibilities. With time, this won’t be restricted to organised, structured events. Live VR streaming will also mean we can witness remarkable events taking place in particularly striking environments – say the North Pole or the middle of the Amazon rainforest.
Live VR streaming is also set to be highly relevant to the many people that, due to circumstance, be it stage of life, age or disability, have difficulty attending events.
A heart-warming campaign from Expedia recently saw the travel company offer children at a research hospital in Memphis the opportunity to be taken on the journey of their dreams through immersive, real-time virtual trips.
Similarly, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society tapped into VR’s power to offer incredible experiences to those living with debilitating diseases, with a campaign that inventively used the technology to give two people with MS the opportunity to experience their lifelong passions.
And technology company ALLie has announced that its cameras, now widely available across Europe and the US, can stream live 24/7 in 360 degrees on the YouTube 360 platform.
There’s nothing to stop forward-thinking event professionals and savvy brand marketers taking advantage of this technology, setting up viewing suites in prime locations that allow participants to access live-stream access to an event.
And with heavyweights like Google and Facebook now firmly backing VR with a host of cheaper headsets that aim to make VR more accessible to everyone, you won’t have to wait long before the technology has received mass-market acceptance.
While physical events will always have a finite audience that can attend – even the world’s biggest sports and entertainment spectacles still have to contend with sizeable health and safety, travel and traffic management restrictions, after all – these constraints just don’t exist in the virtual world. With that realisation comes a huge owned-content opportunity. One that will allow brands to reach, engage and immerse fans at a scale that was previously unimaginable.
Jonny Davis is Managing Director of BEcause Ireland, part of a global group of integrated experiential marketing agencies. BEcause builds brand love through creative, immersive and emotive strategies, and the agency’s work spans experiential events, digital experiences, live technologies, shopper marketing, sponsorship and corporate events. Find out more at www.becausexm.ie.