- Budweiser and the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team reintroduced a mobile game that lets fans shoot virtual hoops to win prizes during live games, according to a press release. The "Deep in The Q" app lets fans point their smartphones at the scoreboard during timeouts and swipe the screen to shoot virtual basketballs at an augmented reality (AR) backboard.
- Fans who attend games also can compete against one another at the Social Zone located in the Quicken Loans Arena's main concourse. The app also works for fans at home, with the mobile games activated by Budweiser branding on coasters, cans and bottles to trigger the virtual hoops game for all fans in the Cleveland area.
- Players can unlock achievements, compete with friends and share high scores on Facebook and Twitter. The "Deep in the Q" app is free for fans 21 or older from the Apple Store and Google Play Store.
While it's still early days for branded AR activations, the fact that Cleveland's home NBA team is again seeking to engage fans with both in-person and mobile experiences through AR technology on smartphones suggests that interest in the technology is still strong for marketers. The "Deep in the Q" app invites basketball audiences to interact with the team inside and outside of games, including activations triggered by Budweiser-branded packaging, which could help fans at viewing parties or local bars feel part of the action even when they don't have tickets to the game.
The Cavs were one of the first teams to try out AR technology after Pokemon Go popularized the seamless blending of computer-generated gaming with real surroundings in 2016. The NBA team in 2016 worked with mobile app developer YinzCam on a smaller-scale AR experience within the team's traditional app. That campaign let fans scan a printed championship ring and recreate a virtual, gold and diamond championship ring inside the app on the night of the season opener. Cavs fans could take screenshots of the virtual ring digitally overlaid on their hand and share the images through social media, leading to higher user-generated content and earned media.
The Cavs' upgraded mobile app is just the latest example of how professional sports teams and leagues are contending with changing consumer tastes in entertainment, especially among younger generations who have grown up with digital entertainment.
Since Apple and Google have developed software templates to make creating mobile AR experiences easier and less resource-intensive, the sports industry is seeing more apps that incorporate the tech. Some possible applications include treasure hunts in stadiums that urge fans to find and collect AR coins for prizes, or AR overlays that show additional statistics about players when fans point their smartphone cameras at the live game in front of them.
Meanwhile, this year's World Cup in Russia will showcase AR technology. Telemundo Deportes, the Spanish-language broadcaster, last week announced a partnership with sports and entertainment collectibles company Panini America to create its first-ever AR experience for the World Cup. The AR experience will include 10-second videos highlighting Telemundo Deportes talent, historic moments and most memorable goals in World Cup history as well as features on this year's host cities and stadiums.