As augmented reality (AR) has become more advanced and accessible, consumers have not only been adopting, but embracing, the immersive technology—and the numbers show no signs of slowing. Smartphones, of course, are an easy point of entry, and according to a Statista report, by 2024, there will be approximately 1.7 billion mobile AR user devices worldwide. And that makes the tech a valuable investment for event marketers in search of fresh avenues for audience engagement.
While in its infancy, AR was often used by brands as part of a gimmick that included the technology for the sake of the buzzword. But these days, many companies are leveraging augmented reality in events more intentionally to enhance their experiences and offer something of value to users. Check out eight ways to make it happen.
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Walmart and MGA Bring Dolls to Life in the Toy Aisle
Walmart and toy company MGA Entertainment have joined forces to bring Bratz dolls to life via AR with a campaign running through the end of the year. As part of the release of MGA’s Kylie Jenner-inspired Bratz “Fashion Dolls,” the brand is popping up exclusively at U.S. Walmart stores with a Bratz World retail activation designed to showcase cross-category merchandise and immerse consumers in MGA products.
The experience includes a geo-gated augmented reality “runway to the toy aisle.” Consumers can scan an in-store QR code to unlock the AR experience, which “Bratzifies” them with a custom filter and places them in a 360-degree Bratz World with animated doll characters and Jenner, who they can pose with for photo ops.
Mastercard Offers Instant Replays at PGA TOUR Events
The PGA TOUR’s Augmented Reality Experience presented by Mastercard leveled up the spectator experience at 12 TOUR events this year with an AR-enabled app that allowed on-site fans to get the best of both worlds when it comes to viewing a match—the excitement of being there IRL, and the convenience of rewatching something you’ve missed, or want to review, on TV. The AR experience gave users the ability to replay shots from their favorite players, analyze the performance of a particular shot with accompanying data, replay shots from previous rounds and compare data between players. Users simply point their iOS device at their favorite tee box or green and get right into the action, with the opportunity to capture content and share it on social.
Princess Cruises Transforms SoFi Stadium into the Pacific Ocean
A partnership between the Los Angeles Rams, Princess Cruises and Snap has yielded a splashy in-stadium AR experience taking place at all Rams home games at SoFi Stadium through the 2023 season. During the one-minute augmented reality experience, which is integrated into the venue’s massive overhead infinity screen and in-stadium cameras, the field at SoFi is transformed into the Pacific Ocean. Three virtual Rams players then surf the waves in a 3D race that invites spectators to root for one of them and that encompasses various virtual challenges and interactions. In the end, the winning surfer rides a wave to the top of a Princess Cruises ship. Bonus points: During the experience, fans in-stadium can enter to win a free seven-day voyage, courtesy of Princess Cruises. Partners: Disguise; Meptik.
Together with @RamsNFL, we made a splash at the first Rams home game with a new in-stadium AR experience! Powered by @disguise_one technology, this activation turned SoFi Stadium into the Pacific Ocean and brought to life the wonders of @PrincessCruises. pic.twitter.com/Cs1vSNHgQv
— Snap for Business (@SnapForBusiness) September 19, 2023
Denny’s AR Menu Features Exclusive Items
For the debut of a new brand platform and menu offering more comfort food, Denny’s turned to augmented reality to spread the word and present consumers with special offers. The AR menu experience, available at locations nationwide, provides a number of ways to interact with the brand, access the exclusive deals and learn more about “America’s Diner” and its 70-year history.
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USAA, Morgan Stanley Enable Costume Try-ons
When USAA combined its 100th anniversary campaign and 13-year Army-Navy game sponsorship, it crafted a 6,500-square-foot fan exhibit at the latest matchup to bring football history to life through personalization and technology. One way the organization did it: Recruiting an Academy Award-nominated costume designer to fashion 1920s-era Army and Navy uniforms, then standing up an AR kiosk that allowed fans to “try on” the 1922 Army or Navy uniform. When participants scanned their game ticket stub, the engagement recognized their name and what team they were rooting for, and displayed that particular uniform on them. Fans could then move around and have their photo taken with the uniform “on.” That image was sent to them instantly for sharing. Agency: 160over90. –R.B.
The space industry, much like the financial services business, has some major glass ceilings to shatter. So to inspire more women to participate in the lucrative future of space and further its mission to make finance more attainable, Morgan Stanley crafted its own conceptual spacesuit: the Access I. Designed with a team of space experts, historians and engineers, the ensemble was unveiled at a “Creating Space” activation in New York City’s Times Square. During the experience, the brand invited attendees to pose for an augmented reality-powered photo op that transformed them into astronauts. The content was then broadcast across the external signage of the company’s Times Square headquarters for all to see. Agency: Courageous.
HBO Maintains Comic-Con Momentum with a Companion App
It’s no secret that finding a way to engage fans—of entertainment, sports, fashion, you name it—who can’t attend an event in person is critical to expanding reach, making consumers feel included and maintaining relevancy in a digitally dominated world.
With that in mind, HBO at last year’s San Diego Comic-Con revealed a companion app for its physical “House of the Dragon” activation, during which attendees participated in a dragon selection and incubation ritual. Before exiting the experience, participants ceremoniously hatched their dragon baby by activating DracARys, the augmented reality app (powered by Niantic and produced by The Mill) that they downloaded pre-event, on an NFC reader.
Activation participants received early access to the app, but it was available a few days later to anyone interested in the show and/or feeling the Comic-Con FOMO. The strategy allowed users to “raise” their dragon at home, thereby maintaining a connection with the event and the brand long after the show.
Paul Mitchell Tells its B-to-B Sustainability Story
At Ulta’s annual Beauty Field Leadership Conference, Paul Mitchell’s sustainability-themed booth experience featured three AR-driven touchpoints, supported by specific music tracks, and accessed via QR codes. One was a photo op that invited attendees to sit on a real, blossom-covered Vespa within the booth and snap a photo with an Instagram filter that showed them wearing a virtual floral crown and being transported to a field of flowers as the Paul Mitchell dove flew overhead. There was also a selfie moment powered by a double-exposure effect that blended the attendee’s photo with natural imagery, a reminder that “we’re all part of nature.”
The main attraction was a realistic tree stump installation developed as an homage to Paul Mitchell’s commitment to planting 1 million trees. Attendees were invited to aim their phones at the stump and watch as a life-sized digital tree grew from the remains, effectively revealing the “secret” aspect of the garden experience. Agencies: JJLA (creative, production); We Are Matik, Inc. (augmented reality).
State Farm Supplies a Football-themed Scavenger Hunt
To take advantage of the fact that more than 93 percent of both millennial and Gen Z consumers have a smart device, State Farm produced a live + digital NFL sponsorship campaign fueled by AR. The resulting #TeamStateFarm Football Find scavenger hunt combined augmented reality with live interactions over the course of four days surrounding a matchup between Kansas City and Green Bay.
How it worked: Once a player registered, 10 digital footballs were immediately dropped within that participant’s surrounding location. They then captured digital footballs with their devices, with each digital football coded and geo-targeted to each user. And it was all a user-friendly experience. If a player signed up in their living room, they’d be able to capture their digital footballs in that room. It was that simple.
Connecting the digital and physical experience, State Farm placed branded prize-redemption trailers throughout Kansas City where fans could claim physical scavenger hunt prizes ranging from digital gift cards and autographed memorabilia to rare NFTs and custom VIP sneakers. All told, 1,328,215 footballs were captured, and State Farm scored 610 million brand impressions. Touchdown. Agencies: Infinity Marketing Team; Zeno.