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How SAP Used Virtual Reality to Interact with Fans During the 2019 NHL All Star Weekend

Winner Spotlight: SAP Battles From the Bench

How SAP Used Virtual Reality to Interact with Fans During the 2019 NHL All Star Weekend
Winner Spotlight: SAP Battles From the Bench

The following interview with Sarah Ax, VP Business Leadership Director at Momentum Worldwide, is part of our Campaign Spotlight series, which examines this year’s Hashtag Sports Award-winning work. SAP Battles from the Bench, created by Momentum Worldwide, SAP, and the NHL, won for Best Use of Immersive Media, which recognizes an organization in or around sports that effectively used an emerging technology to actively engage fans’ senses.


What unique objective or goals led to the creation of this work?

SAP has a longstanding relationship with the NHL. Not only do they power the league’s stats page, they have also helped develop a real-time tracking system aimed at giving coaches access to real-time, customized data and player statistics for the first time. The system, the SAP NHL Coaching Insights app for iPad, was released this season, and is already unlocking a new level of hockey intelligence for coaches and teams.

SAP wanted to get NHL fans excited about the new app, and they needed something more impactful than the typical product demonstration. With the 2019 NHL All Star™ Weekend taking place at the SAP Center in the center of Palo Alto, we had the perfect opportunity to give hockey fans a firsthand look at the new technology.

How was the event designed and produced with the modern sports fan in mind?

At the 2019 NHL All-Star Fan Fair, we gave fans the chance to become an NHL coach and use the SAP-NHL Coaching Insights app in a real game-time scenario. Our game, Battles from the Bench, used virtual reality to put fans on the ice in an overtime situation where they needed to use the app to make the calls that would decide the game. Users took control of the Sharks as they went into OT against the Rangers, and the decisions they made changed the course of the action, which played out up-close in front of them.

Battles from the Bench was the first VR game to feature real NHL team marks, real players and real data. Hi-def and slow motion cameras offered a never-before-seen level of clarity on the ice, putting fans in the heart of the action.

How did this work achieve effective engagement and what measurable outcomes were delivered?

The experience was the most visited partner activation at the 2019 NHL All Star Fan Fair. It had more than 3,500 engagements over three days, and garnered 31,000 impressions. It was designed to be a portable experience that will travel to future NHL and SAP events throughout the year.

What new benchmark(s) in fan engagement does this set? How will this work inspire and move the industry forward?

Battles from the Bench created a new standard for brand activations at NHL All Star weekend by incorporating the latest technology to bring fans closer to the action than ever before.

By taking advantage of a never-before-used VR camera, we were able to incorporate high definition slow motion and unique camera angles into the experience. For the first time, fans could literally see the game the way the players do during a game. These techniques, combined with “choose-your-own adventure” storytelling mechanics, made every user feel like they were part of the action and set a new bar for immersion in a sports VR experience.

What technological breakthrough made the biggest difference in planning & executing Battles from the Bench?

The use of the latest high definition VR camera gave us the ability to film fast moving, immersive in-game scenes with unprecedented clarity and super-slow motion. We took advantage of this by scripting out the gameplay to resolve around big, action packed moments that fans had never seen slowed down from a first person perspective.

What challenges did you have to keep in mind when developing this campaign?

Shooting an active VR experience on ice was a massive challenge that involved choreographing multiple skaters moving at top speed around the camera. Hockey is a fluid, constantly moving sport, and the movements of each player needed to match from cut to cut and from take to take in order to truly immerse the viewer in the action. This involved complicated scripting, expert input and constant attention to detail.

Battles from the Bench was one of only 25 inaugural Hashtag Sports Award winners. What does this honor in engagement excellence mean for Momentum Worldwide, SAP, and the NHL?

Being Hashtag Sports Award Winners is an honor because it represents success in the core goals of both SAP and Momentum Worldwide. SAP’s mission with the NHL is to use data and technology to provide a stronger, better experience for fans, while Momentum always strives to create new, entertaining experiences that connect customers to brands.

We’re now accepting entries for the 2020 Hashtag Sports Awards presented by Budweiser. Ensure your company’s work is recognized for excellence in engagement alongside our inaugural class of winners. Click here to view the categories or click here to get started.

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