August 25, 2020

The new reality for sport is mixed reality

The sports industry is at a crucial turning point. How it responds now will dictate the future of the sector. The consumption habits of fans are evolving and we have a role to play in keeping them engaged. That’s why the new reality for sport must be mixed reality.

We live in a society where Generation Z’s interests in sports tech tie-ins are over double those of 25-69 year olds. They demand snackable, interactive and shareable content. We’re also in the age of the avatar, where the race to build lifelike digital representations of ourselves has become serious business. The solution for sports? Embrace fan avatar communities!

 So what does today’s sports fan really look like? 

  • 3 in 4 fans are held back from watching live sport because of ticket prices;
  • 79% of fans are satisfied with the viewing experience on TV as opposed to 73% in stadiums;
  • 4 in 5 fans access sports content on their smartphone while watching the TV; and
  • 73% say it is important to access sporting content whenever and wherever they want.

Today’s fan prefers viewing live sport from home, watching across multiple screens, engaging with fan communities via social media, and accessing content anywhere at any time. Whereas geography was previously a hindrance to engaging in the live sport experience, technology has alleviated that. 

Contrary to popular belief, live sport viewership is not declining amongst younger generations; their consumption habits are just changing. The passion and patriotism these fans have for their home teams is as strong as ever, but it is about providing them with new platforms that allow them to display this passion; platforms that fit into these ever-changing habits.

By using avatars, fans have a digital representation of themselves in a new sporting metaverse that removes geographical boundaries and unites fans through a sense of community from the comfort of their homes.

It goes without saying that innovations to enhance the fan experience became the hot topic of conversation during the pandemic. However, these technologies aimed at bringing global fan communities together have only been accelerated by the pandemic, not inspired by it.

Pandemic or no pandemic, the same questions still exist. How do you fill half-empty stadiums that have failed to sell-out? How do you make second-tier games or youth tournaments feel like major events? How do you offer fans the opportunity to attend any match at any stadium? With mixed reality, stadium capacities can grow by adding fan avatars, and with this growth, the commercial benefits increase too.

With the rise of experience-enhancing technologies for fans, particularly in the wake of COVID-19, there is a need to educate the sports industry on the full potential and possibilities that exist with mixed realities, helping to maximise the output for leagues and federations.

With more time, more focus, and more specific requirements, technology will only become more robust. We have partnered up with some of the best talent in the industry, with experience working on blockbuster movies and receiving Oscar and Emmy nominations along the way. With this, we have advanced motion capture processes that allow us to produce realistic human movements in our avatars. 

OZ ARena can utilise a number of different avatar styles and avatar systems, even at the same runtime. Avatars can be customised and controlled by fans at home. This opens up a whole host of new opportunities that engage the majority of the fans who are unable to watch their favourite team in their home stadium.

When you bring the correct tactics into play, you can end up with the winning solution. Right now, that is mixed reality, but as the demands and needs of fans rapidly develop and change, so must the technological innovations.

If we stand still then we risk harming the future of sport. Fans will always exist, but how we engage with them will require constant evolution. To do this needs open-mindedness, reactivity and a willingness to confront the fan experience as we currently know it. We are welcoming that challenge with open arms, are you ready to do the same?