Will Twins’ shared AR app lead to gold rush?


Minnesota Twins with AR venture Image: ARound

It largely flew under the radar on August 22nd when the Major League Baseball (MLB) team Minnesota Twins announced that they had launched – what is believed to be the first shared augmented reality (AR) application for live sports – for use at their home ballpark – Target Field in Minneapolis, US.

‘Forbes’ stated that while a first, the pilot app could open the door to either value-add traditional sponsorship deals, or open avenues for new sponsors. If the application gains traction, it could create a land rush for not just the other 29 clubs in Major League Baseball (MLB), but across the sports property landscape.

The Major League Baseball (MLB) is a professional baseball organization and the oldest major professional sports league in the world. As of 2022, a total of 30 teams play in Major League Baseball – 15 teams in the National League and 15 in the American League – with 29 in the United States and 1 in Canada.

The Minnesota Twins are an American professional baseball team based in Minneapolis, US. The Twins compete in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a member club of the American League Central Division. The team is named after the Twin Cities area which includes the two adjoining Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul in the United States.

The 38,544-capacity Target Field is a baseball stadium in the historic warehouse district of downtown Minneapolis, US. Since its opening in 2010, the stadium has been the home ballpark of Major League Baseball’s Minnesota Twins. The stadium hosted the 2014 Major League Baseball All-Star Game.

ARound is part of Stagwell, a publicly-traded high-tech company that will allow fans to aim their phones at Target Field during lulls in the action, and play games with others at the ballpark. Targeted largely to a younger audience, the concept is not too dissimilar from augmented reality (AR) games one may have seen at the movie theater before the previews as part of Noovie.

‘Forbes’ further stated that the difference here is it’s not just a single user, but many within the Target Field. Apps that will be made available include as BatterUp, Blockbuster, which the Twins and the developers showed as users throwing digital items at towers and knocking them down, and a game called Fishing Frenzy.

New York (US)-based Stagwell is a digital-first, full-service marketing and communications group that works with simplicity and speed at scale.

Augmented reality (AR) is an interactive experience of a real-world environment where the objects that reside in the real world are enhanced by computer-generated perceptual information, sometimes across multiple sensory modalities, including visual, auditory, haptic, somatosensory, and olfactory.

Noovie is the show before for the movies (in most theaters) that features exclusive content, AR gaming on the big screen, trivia, and a suite of apps to continue the fun after the show.

Stated Chris Iles, the Twins’ Senior Director of Brand Experience and Innovation, “What I think Josh (read Josh Beatty, the Founder and head honcho of ARound) has built has some real power and some real legs, because it is able to be aware of everyone around you that is using the app at the same time, creating a shared experience and creating some context around an event that frankly has never been done before. So that excited me and the Twins as it had never been done before.”

Beatty informed that no user data is collected. No one goes through a sign-up process to use the app. And that the infrastructure is large enough to support tens of thousands of users.

Which gets one thinking? Besides entertaining kids with games and keeping them in their seats, what other value does the app have from a business perspective?

For one, the idea that other types of use cases could be created within the platform. Both Iles and Beatty mentioned that it’s possible to create an experience in which player stats could hover over a player in realtime or other ways to engage the dedicated baseball fan in attendance.

But what seems most intriguing from a business standpoint is that while the initial rollout is skinned as just gameplay for a younger demo, it is fully capable of having the games be skinned in a way that monetizes it.

Iles and the Twins see the platform as a way to create closer connections to the people and places.

Stated Iles, “One thing we realized is that you kind of have to have a big audience to make that happen.”

Iles added that the Twins were receptive from the first conversation, understanding that this is a technology that has a place as value to be added to the ballpark experience – “To the teams, the fans, and the sponsors, it adds to sports entertainment.”

Its here that the Twins may be hitting on something that is more than just adding to the game experience, but opening up new avenues to the bottom line: Sponsors.

The initial rollout is not skinned with any sponsors, but Beatty said that the design of the apps for the Twins takes that in mind.

Added Iles, “I would say [the platform] is tailor-made for sponsorship. We are launching this sponsor agnostic because we do want to have a clean test of the technology to see how fans interact with it. I’ve always thought that before you can add the sponsorship component you need to show it as it is and let potential sponsors see it the same way. So, we need to prove this thing out. But we feel that it will work well for our sponsors.”

Likely, a shared AR app at the ballpark is not going to garner huge returns in the sponsorship space initially. But it largely depends on other applications that are developed in the future. It either becomes an additional way to activate sponsorship in a larger deal for a client, or brings in new sponsors. Either way, the Twins are hitting on an untapped revenue stream.

For Stagwell, the technology isn’t limited to just at the ballpark. After all, games can be watched through traditional television and streaming.

Said Sarah Arvizo of Stagwell“, Not only are we looking to enhance the in-stadium experience, but with our technology, we can actually bridge this to the at-home viewer as well. We can bring all the things that are happening with the AR platform in the stadium to their coffee table. And so as they are watching a game, they can have that energy and excitement that is in the stadium, but take that with them wherever they go.”

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