Virtual Reality in Sports Research

About two months ago we wrote this blogpost explaining why we were launching VsportR.

Since then we’ve evolved significantly but our guiding mission hasn’t changed.

We still firmly believe sports content will be a cornerstone of what will make VR great and as one of the billions of passionate sports fans we want to help make these experiences easy to create and consume.

We conducted one of the first ever research projects specifically on “Virtual Reality in Sports”, there’s an executive summary at the end of this article and if you’re interested in seeing the full report, drop us an email to hello@vsportr.tv.

Thanks again to all the teams, leagues, athletes, broadcasters, brands, agencies and consultancies who took the time to talk to us.

Yet again, what stood out, is that despite much impressive early innovation and huge opportunity, there is still a paucity of content for the regular sports fan to consume.

This in is in large part due to the technical challenges and costs sports organisations face in generating VR content and the barriers people still face in consuming VR.

Further, what we realised is that the best way for VsportR to tackle its mission was not to build its own cross-platform channel housing experiences we co-created, but rather to build technology tools directly for sports organisations to use to connect with their own audiences.

If VR is ever going to become mainstream in sports, there needs to be scalable tools and accessible platforms to create experiences for concrete use cases (e.g. event promotion, broadcast highlights etc).

To tackle this, we’ve been rapidly prototyping an exciting new product and have been selected to pitch this at Sports Tech Pitch 4.5.

We’ll be kicking off a beta programme for sports partners so get in touch if you are interested in finding out more.

Stay tuned for more updates coming soon.

Alex Handy, Founder — VsportR


Virtual Reality In Sports — Executive Summary

(For the full report email hello@vsportr.tv or sign-up to our newsletter at www.vsportr.tv)

The sports Virtual Reality market has three primary B2B segments — sports content owners (teams, leagues & associations, athletes), broadcasters and brands.

Sports organisations need to start thinking about how they will create and manage their virtual reality assets (e.g. a photorealistic virtual space or room) as a distinct part of their digital portfolio, much like websites, social media channels and video content.

A common feature across all these B2B segments is that direct merchandising and monetisation tools in VR are extremely nascent. These will emerge as the user base increases and technology platforms mature.

Content Owners

  • Fan engagement — early experimentation with 360 / VR video in one-off experiences needs to evolve into a more regular slate of content to reduce upfront cost and increase ongoing engagement. There is a huge opportunity for this group to develop scalable, repeatable content packages and leverage more from the access and rights they possess to build direct connections to fans. To maximise this potential, content owners should start rethinking their entire content engagement cycle in the context of VR (e.g. event promotion, the matchday experience, highlights etc).
  • Athlete branding — Athlete profile building is very early but has huge potential — imagine being able to return serves from Andy Murray or take penalties against Joe Hart. Athletes can own these experiences if they move early.
  • Training — In the foreseeable future, high-end VR training simulations will likely remain consigned to very specific use-cases (e.g. QBs in American Football). Experimenting with more basic uses of 360 video content in the training work ow could, however, deliver quicker wins.

Broadcasters

  • Live — Live VR streaming means a lot of different things right now (pure VR video, hybrid video and virtual environment, full virtual environment) and there is no one dominant approach that is winning out. In fact, there is room for multiple approaches to co-exist each offering a different core use case.
  • Live — Broadcasters should start simple with live VR streaming focusing on sports where the technology can currently handle the action (e.g. close combat sports) — it’s tempting to shoot straight for the full VR stream of major sporting events but turning consumers off with sub-optimal experiences could prevent the full potential ever being reached
  • Ancillary content — Despite the importance of live, broadcasters need to think more broadly about the full programming slate that VR can offer. The promise of full physical presence in VR can easily be extended to generate powerful sports event promotional tools, behind-the-scenes documentaries and highlights packages.

Brands

  • Analytics — Data and analytics will be central to demonstrating the long term value of VR. Being able to provide insight on how people are engaging with brands within a virtual space (e.g. where looking, how moving around etc) has the potential to be transformative as an input to designing effective marketing campaigns.
  • Native branded experiences — VR offers increased opportunities for native branded experiences and product placement. One can imagine branded virtual rooms, housing a range of relevant media content alongside engaging product placement, becoming a powerful marketing asset in their own right.
  • Interactive engagement — Adding direct interactivity in VR provides huge opportunities to improve engagement. Typically marketing is a reactive experience where the consumer is served an advertisement that they simply watch. VR offers the potential to provide much more agency to the user.