NBA and Google gamify playoffs with virtual app experience

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Diving brief:

  • The NBA and Google Pixel announced a virtual space in the NBA app on April 18 with activities related to real playoff games, according to details emailed to Marketing Dive. Once inside the “Pixel Arena”, fans can create an avatar sporting a team’s gear, play an NBA trivia game, view 3D game highlights and virtually insert themselves into previous games using their phone’s gyroscope.
  • During halftime and after the game, users can relive the performances of top scorers and teams with 3D shot recaps based on real-time NBA data from the game’s first half. Attending games and scoring trivia points will allow users to climb the leaderboard and unlock virtual gear for their avatar.
  • As the effort promotes the brand and technology behind Google’s Pixel smartphone, dubbed the “Official NBA Fan Phone,” mobile activation works on all iOS and Android devices during halftime and between games. playoff games from April 23.

Overview of the dive:

It’s the first immersive experience developed by Google and the NBA, according to the press release, helping to deepen fan interest around the playoffs and generate buzz on social media during live games. The “Pixel Arena” activation brings new meaning to the pitch, building on the broader consumer trend of second-projection on a phone while watching TV.

During the tournament, which runs from April 16 to June 19, basketball fans can interact with the NBA playoffs in a more engaging and fun way. Mobile activation is designed to keep fans interested longer, allowing them to explore the courts via a virtual avatar and test their knowledge with trivia based on real-time game stats. The more time fans spend in the app, the more points they’ll earn on a leaderboard to unlock special levels and gear for their avatars – an approach that offers a sense of competition and exclusivity, but likely won’t compel no users to stay after the playoffs end.

The activation of Google and the NBA aligns with broader growing interest in second scouting, or using a smartphone or tablet while watching TV. During Super Bowl LVI, more viewers were expected to follow the game than in previous Super Bowls – mostly by texting, playing, browsing social media or ordering food for delivery – suggesting ripe opportunities for marketers to connect with savvy sports fans. The tactic generates buzz around a televised event and recognizes the increasing amount of time people are spending on their smartphones, while providing breakthroughs for a brand like Google to reach consumers with an interactive experience.

“Pixel Arena” builds on the Google and NBA slogan, “For All the Fans,” which debuted in October 2021.

The new virtual space is one that promotes Google’s multi-year partnership and Pixel smartphone, simply by the nature of the name of the activation, but is not exclusive to phone users. This approach broadens the reach of the effort to more basketball fans, regardless of their device or mobile operating system.


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