As the Indiana Pacers prepared to face the Miami Heat in a do-or-die game five in the NBA Eastern Conference Finals last night, the Pacers and creative agency The Famous Group partnered to launch an app with augmented reality, Pacers Games, to drum up excitement among fans.
Pacers Games, along with the new Pacers Official app, is available for iPhones and iPads, as well as Android smartphones and tablets.
Calling the Official app the more traditional fan app, the Pacers say the Games app allows fans “the opportunity to enjoy an [augmented reality] experience starring the NBA’s best mascot, Boomer.”
In the Boomer’s Dunk Challenge game, fans point their mobile devices’ cameras at a specially designed image to reveal a game inspired by Boomer’s in-game dunk routine. In it, fans launch Boomer using a slingshot toward a 3-D hoop generated by the image and play for points.
The Games app also features Being Boomer, which allows fans to use augmented reality to transform a traditional paper mask into an animated 3-D version superimposed over their faces that they can then photograph and share.
For what the Pacers call the initial launch phase, Boomer’s Dunk Challenge will be available for fans to play at the Pacers’ home court, Bankers Life Fieldhouse, during events beginning with game five.
But according to Rob Laycock, the Pacers’ vice president of marketing, fans don’t have to be at the Fieldhouse to play the Dunk Challenge. That’s because the app has two modes – practice mode and Fieldhouse mode. The latter enables fans to play against each other and track their scores. Practice mode, on the other hand, allows fans to generate hoops on anything and play anywhere.
Laycock says the Pacers hope that if enough fans download the app by next season, they will be able to play collectively during timeout breaks and the Pacers can offer prizes like coupons for the gift shop or concessions.
Laycock did not provide download figures for either app. However, according to Google Play, as of May 29, the Indiana Pacers Official app has between 1,000 and 5,000 downloads and Pacers Games has between 100 and 500.
Additional app incentives, such as coupons, are important, at least according to Augmented Marketing creative director Wil McReynolds.
He says the Pacers will have to incorporate some kind of discount or the like if they want to move beyond simply having a gimmicky app with no call to action or what’s-in-it-for-fans value.
McReynolds cites Domino’s use of augmented reality to provide customers weekly coupons as a good example of that what’s-in-it-for-fans value. Additionally, he says Ikea has a very successful augmented reality campaign with its catalog that allows consumers to download an app to place virtual furniture in their homes to see what it will look like prior to purchase.
“Augmented reality is about marketing. It’s still a tool to sell and you want to engage people,” McReynolds says.
In addition, McReynolds says brands’ biggest draw to augmented reality is metrics.
“You can track where, when, and how long [consumers are] engaging with print materials. With a magazine ad, we can tell how many users are engaging with it, how long did they look at ad, did they look at Facebook, [and] which links did they click through. You can get all off of augmented reality,” he adds.
However, according to Enlighten Communications director Tessa Wegert, augmented reality isn’t the right fit for most brands because it requires a fairly substantial financial investment and the outcome is often “all bells and whistles that detract both from the brand and the campaign.”
However, Wegert concedes that consumers are accustomed to associating sports with online games, so “if anyone’s going to make it work, it’s a sports brand.”
The augmented reality app isn’t the Pacers’ only high-tech addition this season.
The team also incorporated Google Glass into their games earlier this year, Laycock says. Pacers staff members such as the gametime announcer wear the technology to show the view of the game from their perspectives, which the Pacers can display on the scoreboard.
“We want to be on the front-edge of technology. Wearable technology and augmented reality are a part of that mix, but we want to make sure any technology is fan-focused,” Laycock says.