In the days leading up to Super Bowl 51 in Houston, the NFL and the local host committee put on a fan extravaganza like no other – over 12 acres of NFL history, game experiences and brand activations. San Francisco had over one million people pass through their fan experience event for Super Bowl 50 last year, and organizers of this year’s event estimate that over 1.5 million people will have passed through Super Bowl LIVE in downtown Houston. But what was the big draw?
Well, the Super Bowl itself is a draw and this being Texas, football fans were going to come out for the big game, but what about the week leading up to it? That’s where the brands step in, and this year, they stepped up their games. As we’ve shared previously in our 2017 Digital Trends Report, consumer awareness of immersive technologies like virtual reality (VR), is only at 33 percent so it’s still a good time for brands to lead the way in introducing VR storytelling to consumers.
And that’s exactly what sponsor brands did for this year’s Super Bowl in Houston. The local host committee sponsors decided early on to present a united front for Houston, one that showcased the city as a hub for innovation across the healthcare, energy and aerospace industries. The result was a free event called Super Bowl LIVE that brought many of those sponsors’ products and services to life for locals and visitors with VR.
Visitors to Super Bowl LIVE could experience Life Flight through the *Texas Medical Center’s VR goggles or hunt for hydrocarbons in their own homes with *Shell’s VR experience. Another energy provider, *Chevron, also shared a VR experience that let users explore the company’s largest deep water offshore platform.
But perhaps the biggest draw of all was NASA’s own VR ride to Mars, complete with a “real” blast off and 90-foot free fall back to earth.
Yes, the Super Bowl with all the ads and parties, can be overwhelming but brands should remember that activating on the ground in the host city is an important component of connecting with and engaging fans and customers at a grassroots level.
Deven Nongbri is a vice president with Digital in Houston.