- The Green Bay Packers football team debuted a campaign yesterday that lets fans at home games participate in augmented reality (AR) experiences and interactive in-stadium, online and community activities, according to a press release. The "Get Closer to the Packers" campaign is sponsored by Associated Bank, a Wisconsin-based financial franchise with more than 200 branches.
- A photo experience at Lambeau Field lets fans virtually pose for an AR-generated picture with players Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, David Bakhtiari or Bryan Bulaga. The photo includes the player's autograph and can be sent to a fan's email or shared directly on Facebook and Twitter.
- A ticket sweepstakes on Facebook gives fans give a chance to win two game tickets and sideline passes, or two tickets to the Festival Foods MVP Deck at the stadium. Associated Bank is also offering cash bonuses and gift cards to people who open checking accounts at the stadium.
Associated Bank's campaign with the NFL team marks the first time the Packers is including AR experiences with in-stadium promotions. The team isn't alone in adopting AR or VR tech to boost fans' viewing experience and better connect with the team at games or at home via mobile and digital entertainment features.
The Atlanta Falcons have a new state-of-the-art stadium integrated with its mobile app, where fans can get real-time information about the team and directions regarding travel to the stadium. The San Francisco 49ers updated its mobile app to include VR content for viewing games, exclusive videos and updates about the team.
Football is the most-watched sport in the U.S., but younger audiences appear to be turning away in droves. The 18- to 24-year-old demographic collapsed by 42% last season, which extended a longer-term decline, especially among women. AR and VR may give the NFL and other professional sports organizations a way to connect with a generation that's grown up on cell phones and video games. In order to connect with the next generation of sports fans, the NFL needs to follow the Packers' lead and find more ways to integrate cutting-edge technology to lure engaged viewers.
NFL teams are looking to recover from last year's decline in TV ratings, which CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus said was partly attributed to the politicization of sporting events and players. Former Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand during the national anthem to protest police treatment of African Americans, for example, which led to boycotts and significant backlash by audiences. The average TV viewership for the 2016 NFL season fell about 8% last year from the prior year. Other factors that affected viewership included the hotly contested presidential election, absence of big stars like retired quarterback Peyton Manning and programming of additional games throughout the week like "Thursday Night Football."