Melissa Rosenthal Brenner, the NBA’s senior vice president of digital media, told AListDaily that the league’s young and tech-savvy fan base has come to expect the NBA to run a fast break on innovation.
“AR allows the NBA to begin creating experiences in an area where younger fans are spending a lot of time—in front of their camera,” Brenner said. “The NBA AR app allows us to engage with our fans across the globe by shooting hoops on a realistic NBA basket on a realistic NBA court. Conceivably, you can now work on your virtual game anywhere in the world.”
Using the iPhone camera and ARKit technology, the app captures a player’s surroundings, pins an authentic NBA backboard and court into the real-world environment, and then uses the accelerometer in the iPhone to flick shots at the hoop before the 30-second shot clock expires. Players can share their shooting sessions with friends (through iMessage, email or social media), or see how they stack up globally on the overall leaderboard.
Brenner said there’s a level of personalization the league is providing fans through the inclusion of all 30 teams in the AR game, which can be customized to include franchise logos and colors. The app also provides information on the team’s next game. The experience, which was developed by third-party company Camera IQ, has been created as a platform that will offer updates for fans.
“We’re already working on new ideas, both from a utility and entertainment standpoint, to help enhance the NBA AR app,” Brenner said. “This includes content from both on-and-off the court.”
By leveraging ARKit’s reach across millions of existing devices, Brenner said the NBA is exploring how all types of AR could fit into its emerging technology strategy. She added that it’s part of a strategy to look for new ways to integrate its partners into NBA content and create compelling experiences for its fans.
The NBA has also partnered with NextVR over the past two years to broadcast select games in VR. Brenner said this medium has been especially powerful for the league’s international fans who don’t have the same opportunity to experience the in-arena action. The league has also used VR to incorporate new marketing opportunities for brands.
“Whether it’s the live game or highlights, we’ve received very positive feedback on our VR content from fans all around the world,” Brenner said. “As compared to more traditional advertising channels, VR provides the opportunity to create immersive experiences that are additive to the overall viewing experience. We try to use VR technology to enable a consumer to ‘experience’ a particular product or service and we think it has really resonated with fans.”
The NBA has over 155 million core fans of basketball around the globe. Less than one percent actually experience games in an NBA arena, so the incorporation of technology becomes even more important to keep fans engaged.
“The ability to reach fans through new technology and platforms, especially one this ubiquitous, is always appealing,” Brenner said. “When you see Apple, Facebook, Snapchat and Google all focused on AR, that tells you that this space has massive potential. Getting a product into the market now allows us to learn quickly about the technology and how our fans use it, as well as make important decisions that can further grow the game.”