There’s no brand on the planet better associated with basketball than Nike. For a company eponymous with the likes of Michael Jordan—“it’s gotta be the shoes!”—and Kobe Bryant, sneakerheads and hoops fans alike have a voluminous vault of kicks, and the commercials that accompany it, that speak to them.
One of Nike’s most iconic commercials is “Freestyle,” a 150-second soundtrack of NBA stars and streetballers performing grade-A acrobatics and ball wizardry while squeaking their sneakers to a soothing chorus.
The commercial debuted at the 2001 NBA All-Star break and is easily one of Nike’s most memorable. It’s also the inspiration for “CourtVision,” a remake for lifestyle streetwear brand Undefeated’s virtual reality experience that was launched in conjunction with their new NikeLab Dunk Lux shoe collaboration.
Produced by IM360, a Digital Domain company, Undefeated’s two-minute VR film features “the world’s greatest ballhandler” Pat The Roc showing off his skills to the tunes of beatmaker Nosaj Thing in an immersive environment providing viewers a 360-degree experience. A special pop-up store in Los Angeles where visitors experienced “CourtVision” on VR headsets was also introduced to complement the activation.
[a]listdaily caught up with three of the creative forces for “CourtVision”—Ilias Panayiotou, brand director at Undefeated, Chris Fieldhouse, executive producer for IM360, and Rich Flier, managing director of Digital Domain Holdings Limited—to discuss the remake. (Click here for full version.)
Why was the original 2001 Nike “Freestyle” commercial the inspiration for the remake with Pat The Roc?
Panayiotou: The original Nike “Freestyle” commercial was a huge and impactful piece of visual art that has stuck with me since I first saw it. Everything from the players and their moves to the soundtrack by Pharrell, it was a great moment in pop culture. With this project it seemed like the perfect time to create an homage to that piece of visual history, especially since I feel a lot of the younger kids these days don’t even know about it.
How does experiential marketing help Undefeated sell the NikeLab Dunk Lux shoes?
Panayiotou: Creating an experiential space and immersive VR experience allowed us to create a controlled environment that gave context to the NikeLab Dunk Lux and the thought process behind it. It brought our consumer into our world to experience something more than just buying a product. It helped put them in our head space, and they hopefully experienced something they have never seen before.
How did attendees engage with the immersive experience at the Undefeated “CourtVision” pop-up shop?
Panayiotou: People coming through the pop-up shop were blown away by the VR experience that IM360 and Undefeated created. Some people were so immersed they tried to reach for the ball.
Fieldhouse: Customers engaged with the experience through the custom Samsung Gear VR app that IM360 developed for Undefeated. They had multiple kiosks set up in-store where customers and celebrities alike could experience the film in a head set; binaural audio added to the fully immersive experience. We also handed out branded Undefeated and IM360 cardboard viewers that consumers could take with them to view on their mobile phone after the event. Everyone felt that it was a very immersive experience to the point where they were interacting with Pat The Roc: trying to block him and dribble past him, but running into walls because they were in the pop-up store.
How do VR activations impact the fashion and streetwear industries?
Panayiotou: VR activations give brands the ability to transport their customer to another world without leaving their comfort zone and truly immerse them in a curated environment.
Why should 360-degree video and VR content creation be important to brands?
Panayiotou: It helps give them a context and meaning to what we are doing so that it is no longer just about the physical item itself.
Flier: In our experience at Digital Domain and its subsidiaries, brands are often the first to adopt new technologies and build innovative creative experiences. They pave the road with regard to cutting-edge technology and experiences for others to follow. They want to be the first to do something in order to inspire their existing audience and attract new consumers. With new technologies such as 360-degree video and VR, brands have a whole new way to communicate to their audience. They can place the consumer courtside at an NBA game, or on top of Mount Everest, or even on the surface of Mars. A whole new realm of possibilities is now at their fingertips. While there is no clear monetization strategy for these new technologies, the brands know that the universe is more than excited about VR and 360 video, and they have faith that their ROI will come.
Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan.