Coca-Cola is sponsoring an augmented reality (AR) experience in NASCAR’s mobile app that lets stock-car racing fans immerse themselves in highlights from the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, per an announcement. The NASCAR Playoffs AR Experience Refreshed by Coca-Cola gives smartphone users the illusion of stepping through a virtual portal that looks like a large Coca-Cola can into a 360-degree view of the event.
The AR experience will be available for all 10 weeks of the NASCAR Playoffs on AR-enabled iOS or Android devices. The app feature lets mobile users surround themselves in moments such as team celebrations in Victory Lane and post-race driver burnouts, among others.
Tim Clark, the head of NASCAR Digital Media, said the racing company seeks to engage fans with the AR experience. NASCAR will add fresh 360-degree content after each NASCAR Playoffs race, culminating next month in the championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
NASCAR’s AR experience helps to extend the racing brand’s events on mobile platforms that are drawing audiences away from traditional media like broadcast TV. Coca-Cola's involvement shows how AR is creating new sponsorship opportunities for sports leagues and other live event organizers by giving marketers a new way to get their brands in front of fans. It is the latest example of how the beverage brand is leveraging AR to reach digital natives who don't always distinguish between online and offline worlds.
The immersive technology may help NASCAR appeal to a new generation of possible fans as the racing organization struggles with decade-long decline in ratings. Its Talladega race saw an 18% drop in ratings and 20% drop in viewership this year from 2017, per data cited by Forbes columnist Dave Caldwell. However, there are signs that NASCAR is regaining viewers this fall, with a 13% jump in viewership for last weekend’s first race in the Monster Energy series, per Broadwayworld.
NASCAR is among the major brands that are developing AR experiences after Apple and Google created software tools to help more people use the technology, which superimposes digital images on a real background seen through a smartphone camera. As part of its promotion tie-in with the National Football League, Pizza Hut last month introduced the AR-powered Beanbag Blitz app, an interpretation of the popular tailgate game cornhole or bean bag toss, which is compatible with its pizza boxes.
The National Basketball Association last year launched an AR mobile game called "NBA AR" that challenged players to shoot as many virtual baskets as possible in 30 seconds by flicking their iPhones in the direction of a digital backboard. The Cleveland Cavaliers launched an augmented reality virtual pop-a-shot mobile app game for the start of the playoffs two seasons ago.