For this 10x10 Session, the Co-Founder and CEO of Zappar Ltd (Caspar Thykier) is joined by Scott Kegley, the Executive Director of Digital Media and Innovation at the Minnesota Vikings.
They chat about:
- How AR and sports marketing work together
- How to boost fan loyalty with AR
- Why you should focus on the first year rather than the first 10 years when building an AR strategy
Caspar Thykier: Well, I'm delighted to be joined by Scott Kegley today, who's the Executive Director of Digital Media and Innovation at the Minnesota Vikings. An absolute true pioneer in AR when it comes to sports marketing and spatial computing. Scott, perhaps you could tell us a bit about your role and how you became interested in the opportunity for AR in sport.
Scott Kegley: Great to talk with you today. So in my role, I oversee our digital media, social media, our editorial team and our mobile application. We became interested in AR when we were opening up our stadium, trying to look at ways that we could kind of bring some of the different experiences to life within the building.
One of those things was our game day magazine. That's actually how we got started - we placed those on every seat in the stadium. So what a great thing to be able to scan and enhance through AR. Then we actually started out working with you guys to bring those playbooks to life.
Whichever athlete was on the cover would also have a story about them in the magazine. And so we actually augmented the cover of those magazines to tell a little bit of a story that tied back ultimately to the main game day story on that player.
That was pretty successful for us, but when we started out we also wanted to get people to download the mobile app. So this was a feature, like everything that we've done so far in AR has been more mobile AR driven.
And so we wanted to give people a reason to download the app - and what a great marketing opportunity too, for the app to literally tell people if they haven't already used it for ticketing or for mobile ordering or wayfinding, et cetera. This was one more reason. And one more gateway to kind of get people into the mobile experience with the Vikings.
Caspar Thykier: Absolutely. And I guess there's been lots of chat more recently about what's the opportunity for WebAR versus native apps, and all this friction with native apps, but clearly there's still a really important role for native apps when it is speaking to a group of fans or a loyal audience.
And it does bring that camera capability into play. I guess following the stuff that we did with the game day programs, it's also become an interesting opportunity for brands and sponsorship partners and different ways to bring everyone together in terms of all the different audiences that it appeals to.
How do you present the idea of AR to brands and partners?
Scott Kegley: I think it's really trying to figure out what their goals are and how AR might be able to assist with them achieving those goals. So we had been doing the magazine feature for about two seasons and then advanced that as we progressed.
But then going into year three we were able to actually have two years worth of data that we were able to show Pepsi. So that first year their campaign was all about celebrations within the sports sphere. And I was like, okay, well this kind of makes a lot of sense for celebrations within the NFL.
Some of the players on our team have a trademark celebration. So we worked with them on our production days to actually capture their celebrations. And now we tie this in with Pepsi as we brought it to life on their commemorative cups in the stadium. So we had an offensive cup and a defensive cup, and essentially you could scan the cup.
It would look like a player jumped out and essentially launched a mini game where you were either an offensive player or defensive player. And then, at the end of it, you dodged defenders and at the end you score. And you're trying to get points as you go.
And then you can choose which player you want to kind of mimic their celebration and then share that to social. So that was the year three kind of initiative, but we thought that was a really good tie-in with Pepsi and what they were trying to do. And it also added value in increased commemorative cup sales.
So it's always, what does the partner bring to the equation? Can we create great content for the team? And is it ultimately good for the brand, for the team? So trying to find those where it's like a win-win win, right? And if you're winning in those three areas we can consider it a pretty good success.
Caspar Thykier: And obviously we've been through sort of an extraordinary time in retail hospitality, but also for entertainment generally. How did you go about coping with COVID and trying to speak to a fan base who very much were at home and how did AR play a role in that?
Scott Kegley: Yeah, well, we didn't have fans in the building in 2020, so we were already going down this road with Pepsi and they were excited to do it again. We had to take it outside of the stadium, which to be honest, I would've liked to do anyway. I think we had some success, but one of the things that we learned is we would see a lot of engagement obviously on game day, and then there'd be a little bit of a ripple effect and then eventually trickling off afterwards.
People would take the commemorative cups home and scan them or the playbook magazines. But one of the things that we wanted to try to do was take that experience outside the stadium to get more people to experience it. So that transitioned to the cups, then being in quick-trip and Hy-Vee stores, so gas stations and grocery stores.
We did some face paints that were kind of unique to those cups. And then we also just wanted to have something persist in the app, which was becoming a Viking with a face filter, which was pretty cool. So in some ways similar to social AR, but kind of on steroids, right? Because there are so many more features and things that you can access. So we were really excited to launch that last year, too, also in partnership with Pepsi.
Caspar Thykier: And if you were another team in any sport who are starting out on a journey into AR, are there any lessons or things where you'd say “here's what to do at the start” or “here's what I've focused on”, or your lessons from a lifetime of doing this?
Scott Kegley: I don't know if it's a lifetime, but in the last four years, I think there's so much that you can do with AR, whether it's mobile AR, webAR, social AR.
I think the temptation is to try to be everything to everyone. But to really be able to focus in on what makes the most sense for your fan base, how are they going to engage with it and how are our partners going to be potentially integrated in it (though that probably shouldn't be the number one thing that you're thinking about), but not being afraid to to try something new and try something different in year one.
And then be able to learn from it.
I think that there's a hesitation sometimes with AR like all technologies, right? Like, how you jump into those types of things. And okay. We have to have like a ten-year plan around AR. But just start with year one. Start with year one.
Learn from it. Come up with a solid concept. Maybe it's not the best concept that you're going to continue for the next 10 years. Right. But how can you learn from that? And that's difficult sometimes, right? Because you try a new initiative and you're asking for a budget and they're asking for what the return might be on that.
And do we have a partner? Can we sell it? Get the data in year one. Go into it knowing that it's a two or a three-year plan but come up with something that ultimately your sponsorship team, your internal team, your marketing team is going to see value of from the concept and some of the engagement metrics.
And then go from there.
Caspar Thykier: It's so interesting because there's so many similarities from what you've just said to what we've learned from our work with 7-Eleven and Nestle. You're not really trying to make necessarily a minimum viable product, but a minimum delightful product.
And you do go in with a sort of a mindset of, yeah, we do want this to be something that's going to be always-on and move into future years, but we do need to take it one step at a time. And test and learn and understand that we might not get it completely right straight out the gate, but let's try and at least put the right building blocks in place.
It's so interesting to see that sort of common thread that goes across sectors. So we're coming up to time already, would you believe. But the final question really then is, is there anything that excites you looking forward to where you might go with AR or VR, or thoughts that you've got about digitally where you are headed?
Scott Kegley: I think the biggest focus for us has been on mobile AR. I'd probably like to experiment with some things in the social AR space too. Maybe it's a kind of a similar concept, maybe it's completely different.
We have four years of learning, right? So now we're at the phase where we're going to go back and look at wins, opportunities for growth, and figure out what's next for the Vikings and what makes the most sense. Some of those things change year to year, right? With company priorities and where you want to be and your objectives, like the return of fans to the stadium (hopefully) is going to be a big initiative and big undertaking for all sports teams, but the NFL too. Hopefully we have good news by August and September, and we can get some fans back into the building. But I think that's a big opportunity for us in terms of welcoming them back to that environment safely. But also creating a really unique experience for those who can't go to the games.
Caspar Thykier: Absolutely. Scott, thank you so much. I really appreciate you taking the time.
Scott Kegley: Caspar, great talking with you.