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The Ever-Extending Super Bowl Reality


Mixed reality offers opportunities for clever integration to sports broadcasts - but how will brands show up in this space during Sunday’s Super Bowl? LBB’s Addison Capper asks experts from across the US

The Ever-Extending Super Bowl Reality

2022 saw the ad industry's excitement for the metaverse reach something of a peak, but it's probably fair to say that the metaverse hasn't quite lived up to the dream yet. With that in mind, we're predicting 2023 to involve a pivot to extended or mixed reality - a digital layer enhancing our physical reality. 

What’s more, mixed reality has emerged in a big way as a new tactic for clever integration into sports broadcasts, and brands are starting to notice. Gillette highlighted its new razor during a Patriots regular season game and Mercedes-Benz debuted its fleet of electric vehicles during the Peach Bowl and College Football Playoff games. 

So, what does that mean for this Sunday’s Super Bowl? Will we be watching RiRi’s return via some form of AR goggles? That does sound exciting, albeit a little unsociable at a Super Bowl party. 

LBB’s Addison Capper put the question to a host of advertising and web3 experts from across the US advertising industry.  

James Robinson

Chief creative officer, NA at Momentum Worldwide

Will the giant wave of metaverse interest that we saw last year roll back into Super Bowl 2023?

Or will the idea of extended reality (XR) finally make its long awaited debut? 

Probably not. 

While the metaverse did show tons of promise during the pandemic, the desperate need for it diminished as lockdowns eased. The numbers on Sandbox and Decentraland remain less than immense, the gaming platforms have huge audiences, but what can be done there remains a little limited by the IPs. Extended reality still needs us to adopt fancy peripherals like the long rumoured Apple XR glasses and I, like everyone else in the world, am still waiting on my pair. 

So while both still offer tremendous promise, neither are quite living up to our hopes. Yet. 

What I DO hope we see this year is a move away from technology as THE idea (we are the first brand to build this metathing/NFT/Crypto-whatzit on the blockchain!) and instead see the technology in service of truly great ideas. 

If we want people to adopt the metaverse, then we have to give them REAL reasons to go there. The stories that have still yet to be told in mixed reality (MR), augmented reality (AR), extended reality, or any other reality are limitless. The feelings they will provoke, the voices and roles they will give to brands are still all out there to be discovered. Is this the year we see the first great comedy in the metaverse? The first brand action that hits as hard as it would in the real world? The first meta-idea that truly makes the world a better place, and not just because we haven’t left the house in two years? Will we finally see real creativity and not just tech for tech’s sake? 

Will it happen this Super Bowl? 

I hope so. 

It’s all there for the making. I can’t wait to see it. 

Amber Wimmer

Head of digital production at Alto

This year, the new reality is anything but. And at a time when the metaverse is not living up to the hype, I do think an extended version of reality will scratch that tech itch. I also think when big ideas take the lead, the best technical execution will follow. I’d love to see a new edition of Doja Code, to keep the kiddos occupied throughout the game with an engaging experience. I also look forward to the next Squarespace-like toolkit to live beyond the game and help support new entrepreneurs, particularly during this tough time in techland. I’m also more than ready to see Rihanna kill it with her fierceness while celebrating inclusive entertainment like Lizzo’s Special Tour. And speaking of women rocking the house, I hope to see NFT art movements like Women Rise flex to entertain women throughout the game.
In terms of new tools, AR has great reach and flexibility to enhance our real-world experience and encourage interaction. And while I’m excited about potential headset advancements, I’m not sure I’m going to ‘headset at home’ while I have a houseful of friends over on Super Bowl Sunday. I’m also eager to see how XR technologies will influence inclusion and accessibility so that all audience members can enjoy the experience equally. 

While Super Bowl spots are no longer a game time surprise and the future of the sport itself seems in flux with so many injuries, I look forward to seeing how this year’s festivities will give us all a much-needed lift, and hopefully some inspiration and innovation.

Daniell Phillips

Executive producer - experience at BUCK

Super Bowl weekend: America’s advertising Mecca. Game day is about socialising at watch parties, snacking (lots of snacking), showing allegiance to the teams fighting for the championship, debating game incidents, debating the half-time concert, and debating the blockbuster TV spots that surface for the game (a sport in itself). But crucially also, sharing these experiences with other people across social media.  

In many ways this makes AR one of the sharpest mediums for brand awareness on the day itself, and a digital channel of its own. AR Super Bowl activations should be fun, funny, fit for sharing, and most importantly not distracting from the action itself. Face filters may be ubiquitous but are still the easiest and quickest ways to adorn people with brand assets in the moment as they fly around Snap, Instagram, and TikTok. And they are still an endless source of innovation. Broadcast AR will be on the rise, so any brand who can manipulate screen time in the way that Nickelodeon did so brilliantly will always be impressive. Location-specific AR is hugely on the rise and will be a big factor for those lucky enough to be at the game, or in public watch spaces, allowing users to adorn the world around them with brand-relevant visuals. But let’s get real here. Ri-ri-lly real. This year’s Super Bowl is about the return of Rihanna, who is slated to perform for the half-time show, And so expect potential for an AR-enhancement to the show itself, and for any brand that can find a way to pre-empt and amplify this event, it's a surefire top seller (ella, ella ella….).

Hon-Ming Gianotti

Junior Strategist at Media.Monks

We’re very excited with all the broadcast and XR- related innovations that have been emerging in the sports space. While it’s impossible to say for sure, I have my eye on three emerging trends.
One, lots of mobile-focused AR. As an increasingly prominent feature in music festivals and events, and after the AR overlay application of the World Cup, we could definitely see more immersive 3D objects and experiences. The next frontier in this realm is interactivity, and it will be exciting to see if fans will be able to interact with virtual experiences through their devices.

Second, a greater landscape for AI use cases. AI and broadcast overlays have a greater role to play as fans and broadcasters expect more out of their live sports experiences. Quantifying and providing live insights into games will also be a great source of information for people who have other motives than simply enjoying the game, such as sports bettors.

Third, enhanced device-based viewing experiences, especially multi-view experiences. Last year’s Super Bowl featured 360° cameras with seven angles for in-venue audiences to tap into via mobile, and an option to see the Halftime show that way at home. This makes home and mobile viewing experiences more immersive, and is extremely popular with fans.

We might see something special during the halftime show, but let’s keep an eye out for what the production has in store for fans throughout the game. As we move toward a multi-surface future that is more aware of where the viewer is, in addition to many fans using their phone cameras to film the live experience, we might see live AR content focus more on in-venue again. Let’s see how it plays out.

Bert Marissen

Creative director at TBWA\ Chiat Day LA

The fact that Coinbase was voted last year's winner with a simple QR code commercial shows that brands will be looking to steal the Super Bowl with all the tactics in the media book. We’ve already seen teasers of Gronk shooting a live field goal in Fan Duel’s spot, Molson Coors is partnering with DraftKings and is creating a spot that you can bet on. And while the metaverse might not make an appearance in any spots, I think we will see a lot of influence of web3. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see some Bored Apes making their cameos in spots. Brands will 100% extend their campaign into platforms like Roblox to further engage their audience. Digital fashion is also still incredibly exciting, and I could see some brands dabble with that. Overall, I think the web3 space is maturing in a good way - all the fads and scams are fading into memory and what’s left is amazing blockchain technology that leaves brands with a ton of opportunities to engage their audience in ways never seen before. My gut says every agency this year got the brief to disrupt the Super Bowl like Coinbase did - web3 has some interesting answers for those briefs.

Pablo Colapinto

Head of immersive at Nexus Studios

Stadiums are the ideal environment for what we might call a micro-metaverse – a space for the development of next generation entertainment where real and virtual worlds intertwine.  

The atmosphere is just right: and the components are all here. Fans are eager to get back in their seats, with phones in hand. Teams, leagues, and performers are looking for new ways to connect with audiences. Venues and their vendors are aiming to be smarter architecturally. And leagues and broadcasters are searching for that magic portal that can connect the comfort of being at home to the thrill of being in the stadium. Call it a playfield of potential. 

The infrastructure is here too. The desire for connection between all parties is so strong that they require a 5G connectivity to make it happen, and you should expect any major activation will look to leverage the network. Beyond 5G and a crowd hungry for connection, stadiums also provide something unique; live data, consumed in real-time. Whether tracking a ball or a player’s elbow and wrist, or capturing a singer’s movement, we know that the data will be streamed live over the network to adoring fans, analysed, re-imagined, and turned into something even more spectacular. In the near future we’ll soon see performers' movements tracked live on your phone; we’ll get live data mapped to the field right before your eyes; we’ll have an actual augmented experience that enhances our excitement.

This all points to responsive, low-latency, high-quality content that brings the audience closer to what they love. Brands will notice the love, and can help foster the story line. I think we should expect longer form, narrative experiences interwoven into these spaces. At the stadium, brands have a clear opportunity to lead the XR narrative for consumers in a way that weaves in with their excitement, from the parking lot, to the beer line, to the VIP room. 

We’ll see content that goes and grows with us and our fan experience, from frictionless mobile AR discoveries to premiere eyewear….. It’s going to be fun!

Michael Goldstein

Head of communications strategy at DDB North America 

The metaverse trend of last year’s Super Bowl and the rising trend of extended reality are remarkably linked. The metaverse’s power is not in replacing our reality, but in enhancing it, it’s meant to be an additional layer on our world, something that extended reality technology can make possible.

Whereas last year many brands were able to sell the dream of the metaverse, it will be harder for brands to integrate the possibilities of extended reality as adoption isn’t widespread yet. It’d be like showing a QR code to an audience who doesn’t have phones.

Extended reality’s cousin, AR, does exist and we’ve seen many brands utilise it with apps like Snapchat. Perhaps we will see some use of that this year. Overall, what will win at the year’s Super Bowl is what has won every year, highly entertaining content that glues audiences to the screen, whether it’s enabled by the latest tech or not.

McDonald Predelus

VP creative director, web3 at VMLY&R COMMERCE

For brands to truly succeed in the XR space, they must focus on digital assets and communities to track engagement. By utilising the same tactics from direct-to-Consumer (DTC) marketing and looking at it through the lens of direct-to-digital Wallet (DDW) marketing, brands can achieve more targeted and personalised communication with customers to customise their XR experiences. The XR space is evolving under the umbrella of web3 and other tools such as blockchain, decentralisation of digital assets/NFTs, gaming AR, VR, AI, DeFi, and other decentralised social media platforms.

During the Super Bowl, we could expect to see virtual product placements on both the sidelines and field as the space continues to evolve. Brands could use XR to place virtual versions of their products using traditional creative concepts to showcase virtual products during timeouts and commercial breaks, with these products only viewable through XR devices.

XR could also create virtual meet-and-greets with celebrity endorsers or athletes, allowing viewers to have a one-on-one experience with their favourite stars. Brands could use it to create virtual tours of the stadium, and even create VR and AR halftime shows viewers can watch using XR devices, with special effects and interactive elements that wouldn't be possible in a traditional halftime show.

Although metaverse worlds and XR experiences are not co-dependent, eventually, as XR technology becomes more affordable, it will reach mass adoption. We may start to see people use that experience if they received an ownable digital asset as a souvenir -- something they could show off or even sell later. Brands will begin to integrate XR and metaverse into their commerce and brand experiences, ultimately increasing brand loyalty that can later be monetised in the web3 space.

Andrew Klein

SVP of web3 brand strategy and innovation at Publicis Media

The Super Bowl and its advertisers are not shy from delivering metaverse experiences for big game audiences. We will continue to see more extended reality activations that include AR, VR and 3D immersive gaming. Not only does the NFL want to stay on trend and excite new younger audiences, but advertisers are looking to make sure they are at the bleeding edge of technology. I believe we will see an abundance of extended reality experiences this year that also experiment with web3 touchpoints including digital collectibles and web3 metaverse experiences.

Innovative XR experiences we expect to see in 2023:

  • An increase in digital collectibles in the form of tickets, digital team wearables and co-branded POAPs (proof of attendance protocol) from a variety of brands with official rights to marks and logos. These collectibles can provide branded utility and access beyond a cool memento and will likely be collected via on-screen QR as we now know television-viewing audiences will scan to engage.
  • Fan-First Filters and AR games will allow participants to bring the Big Game onto their faces and into the living room. Those will create opportunities for brand integrated UGC and gamification.
  • Next-gen XR at-home and on-site will provide experiences ranging from mixed reality wearable content that overlays Super Bowl moments, highlights and the halftime show content placed right in your personal spaces. We may also see mobile demos for fans in-stadium looking to access enhanced 3D content when pointing their mobile devices at the field, similar to AR activations seen at this year’s World Cup.

Anthony Yell

Chief creative officer at Razorfish

It's an interesting question. As far as an ad that requires extended reality to be delivered and realised, the Super Bowl is not the ideal media opportunity to do something risky or tricky to pull off. That said, if brands have a higher risk tolerance and appetite for innovation, this is an area where they may try to push some boundaries to stand out. For example, last year’s floating QR code was simple, broke through the noise, and ultimately was pretty successful. Whether we’ll have a brand using extended reality in a similar fashion remains to be seen, but there are proven blueprints for making a successful Super Bowl splash. 

When it comes to ads promoting extended reality itself as an emerging capability, it is possible. Every year we see brands target the Super Bowl as a prime moment to pop onto the scene. While it’s a big move, and an expensive one, brands in emerging spaces in particular have taken unique approaches to Super Bowl buys.

Madeleine Reeves

Senior Strategist at Battery

Successful XR activations can embrace the mundane(-ish) to serve up more valuable user experiences. This year’s XR activations might not feel as exciting or novel as they did in past years, and that could be a good thing. Between the cost it takes to successfully activate a mixed reality activation, and the allure of shiny new (and far more affordable) tech like ChatGPT already captivating audiences, the novelty of virtual or mixed reality experiences probably won’t be enough to lure in those who may still be intimidated by unfamiliar technology.

The most important thing is not demanding too much from your audience – XR spans a lot of different formats, all with varying degrees of user-friendliness, so it’s critical to understand what they’ll realistically engage with. The utility and approachability of a useful mobile experience like Chipotle’s AR lenses could offer the right kind of value for more entry-level audiences, just as much as harvesting virtual agave plants could offer to those who are content with simply exploring a fantasy space. Rather than aiming to be the first or the coolest in the space, brands shouldn’t be afraid to cater to the experiences they already know their audiences will enjoy. 

Noah Sarff

Executive creative director at The Basement

Extended Reality makes perfect sense for Super Bowl advertisers. When executed well, these concepts not only stand out from the crowd, they can further justify the enormous investment of a Super Bowl ad placement. The challenge, of course, is in the execution. Cutting-edge technology can inspire and delight, or immediately frustrate and disappoint the end user. Several years ago, I worked with the NFL on fan experience design for the Super Bowl, and I pitched the concept of turning the Super Bowl logo into a target for an AR experience in the app. In theory, there would be hundreds of touchpoints that could spawn an AR experience for those at the big game and those watching at home. However, it was imperative that the user experience be both fascinating and flawless, which proved impossible for the technology at that time. So will we see brands take a leap into extended reality in this year’s game? Maybe. But the technical challenges make it a big risk. Then again, betting big has always been part of the Super Bowl.

Joey Zolfaghari

Associate director of social strategy at VCCP

In the case of extended reality, there just hasn’t been enough time to tap into its potential, and proof of value, yet. It’s in its infancy stages. It will go through the usual cycle of new tech hype where many brands, innovators, and opportunists claim ‘this is the next best thing’. But when that moment of euphoria subsides, much like we’re experiencing with AI now and what we experienced with the metaverse in 2022, we will have clarity of whether XR is the next meteor in tech to transform our daily lives, or if it too becomes another blip of not-quite-it technology. 

So, is this year’s Super Bowl the right opportunity to experiment with extended reality? The live-action nature of the event, and the lack of mass audience interest leads me to believe that this is not the ideal moment to distract them with new technology experiences. We've seen brands attempt this in previous IRL-to-digital experiences such as microsites, social, or mobile with little success. That’s not to say it's not something to try, but another moment may be the best way for brands to deploy their immersion into the extended reality realm.

view more - Trends and Insight
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LBB Editorial, Thu, 09 Feb 2023 17:24:30 GMT