Over the next five to ten years, the metaverse will change how people consume content and interact over the internet, giving sports and entertainment brands several compelling reasons to enter it themselves.
“Metaverse” is a blanket term encompassing a wide selection of ever-evolving virtual environments, such as Sandbox, Decentraland, Roblox, Fortnite, and many more. Users generally access these environments and connect with other users through virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), game consoles, and other digital technologies like smartphones.
While several metaverse platforms have existed on the fringes for years — such as Second Life and VR Chat — the concepts they pioneered are now beginning to enter the mainstream, giving organizations a reason to adapt and prepare to engage with the next generation of fans and customers.
Now that we’re up to speed, let’s look at how sports and entertainment brands can benefit from developing an early metaverse presence and check out some existing adoption cases in the industry.
Virtual hubs and increased brand engagement
Sports and entertainment fans find immense value in their community, so they flock to online forums like Reddit to find like-minded people and discuss their favorite teams, players, and IPs.
With the metaverse, the potential to enhance these communities is vast since brands can create persistent virtual spaces for people with a common interest to interact in real-time. For example, imagine walking around a simulated Wrigley Field and celebrating the Cubs’ latest triumph by talking to other fans (unless you’re a White Sox fan, of course).
VR, in particular, represents a huge selling point for this type of immersive entertainment, but adoption is still relatively low and represents an entry barrier for most customers. Still, as more interactive and immersive content becomes available and the technology becomes more accessible, VR usage will likely rise rapidly.
As people spend more and more time in these virtual worlds and communities, brand loyalty will increase, and customers will start to look for digital accessories and customization options as they do in the physical world. This demand represents an opportunity to sell unique, branded digital goods, create a catalog of new digital goods, and promote or sell physical goods in the real world.
If you still have doubts about the potential of digital goods, consider that Fortnite generated US$5.8 billion in revenue in 2021 from in-game purchases alone.
Early metaverse adopters in S&E
In many ways, metaverse adoption is already having an impact on the sports and entertainment sector.
One great example is the Hawk-Eye computer vision system used in professional sports like tennis, cricket, and volleyball. While its primary function is to detect ball placement, the data and high-quality images it captures have been used to build digital simulations of sports arenas, creating an opportunity to broadcast a live match in the metaverse that people could attend virtually through VR or AR technologies. In 2021, the Series A Italian football league also achieved this by hosting a live game on The Nemesis metaverse platform, selling tickets to fans as NFTs.
Another example of increasing fan engagement comes from the National Basketball Association (NBA), which built an AR mobile application that simulates an authentic NBA backboard and court in the real world. Users can then make shots with a virtual ball using the phone’s camera and accelerometer to detect range and power.
Going one step further, athletes could also wear haptic feedback bracelets and AR or VR headsets to train with other athletes within the metaverse, so these innovations don’t have to be limited to the audience.
DirectTV is a leading brand in digital entertainment services and high-definition content sales. In a highly changing and competitive scene, it sought to maintain its position as an innovative player and reach further and further, exploring new conversation spaces. DirectTV used DGO, its streaming service platform – “direct to consumer” – to broadcast the games in the metaverse in real-time.
On the entertainment side, one of Globant’s partners, PIXELYNX, is helping to advance the evolution of music, NFTs, and entertainment in the metaverse. Together, we’ve been developing a new virtual ecosystem that allows artists to launch branded interactive environments and monetize them through NFTs, social music experiences, and virtual performances.
Getting started with the metaverse
To join these front-runners in metaverse adoption, companies in the sports and entertainment sector should focus on digitizing processes and engagement channels within the organization before venturing any further.
Even though the hardware is still evolving, we recommend experimenting with VR and AR to build an understanding of the possibilities. For instance, the Halo AR platform is free to try and allows brands to experiment with adding AR features to anything, such as a magazine or a program of events.
After that, sports and entertainment brands should look at the metaverse as a new channel for sales, both for digital goods and physical items. But first, it’s vital to stay informed about new regulations surrounding digital sales and data protection in the metaverse since they are not yet outlined.
Early metaverse adopters will lead the platform’s evolution and gain a competitive advantage when engaging with the next generation of consumers. If sports and entertainment brands can navigate the metaverse today, they will see benefits long into the future.