By Charlie Legg, Associate Director, Planning, Mindshare NA
As day three has come to a close in Austin, here are some of the key takeaways from our rock star crew of Mindshare SXSW beat writers as we strive to bring you the highlights from the day.
What is the Future of Sports VR?
This panel discussion was led by Eugene Wei from Oculus and Jeff Marsilio of the NBA, who recently produced a first-of-its-kind VR documentary around the 2016 NBA Playoffs. The 25-minute piece has been hailed as the “next step in VR storytelling” and it represented an opportunity to capture moments that fans were not exposed to on TV.
Eugene opened the session talking about the value of experience versus the story, and posing the question: what can be added by bringing in VR? To date, VR content has focused more on experiences naturally as the core strength of the technology, but there’s a lot of white space to add more story to future content. As he put it, “VR needs narrative, and it needs reoccurring narrative.” The duo also touted VR as another means to create social connection in real-time. The NBA and Oculus plan to evolve their relationship to produce live games in VR in the future, and the NBA sees this as a way to reach fans in foreign markets with passionate followings, giving them the closest product to the arena experience from afar.
From my perspective, as teams and leagues further examine how to monetize VR technologies, it will be interesting to see if the technology itself becomes a corrosive agent within the ecosystem of sports. Teams want to fill seats and are looking at VR as a way to enhance the in-arena experience. Leagues want to grow revenue through audience growth and can most effectively achieve this at scale through TV distribution. Right now, VR technologies are in the works attempting to replicate the courtside seat experience in your own home, providing fans with a more authentic experience and access to behind-the-scenes content occurring outside of fan sightlines (such as LeBron James pumping up his team in the stadium tunnel). The hardware adoption is the immediate challenge for VR, but when they solve for this and these platforms scale up, it will be interesting to see just what impact the technology has on fan behavior.
The Future of Luxury
This was the first panel of the day and it did not disappoint. The conversation began around the evolution of status, and how consumers are redefining what this means to each of us today. Fiona Pargeter, who heads up Global PR Communications for Jaguar Land Rover, explored the historical meaning of status being defined by wealth, and how we’re starting to see social standing playing a bigger role today, especially in the form of philanthropy and giving back.
The panelists also talked about the role social media has played in how we classify ourselves and how experiences are becoming more valuable to consumers. Given that shift, brands like Jaguar Land Rover and Diageo have driven experiential marketing programs that go beyond addressing just a need or a want, but give customers an experience that can become a lifetime memory. Morgan Spurlock of Super Size Me fame was also on the panel and he introduced the point of how luxury brands continue to look for ways to expand the reach in the market place by creating affordable products for those that may not be able to afford premium goods, status symbols have never been more affordable.
Keynote Speaker Jessica Shortall
Jessica Shortall is the founder of Texas Competes, an advocacy group for LGBTQ rights in Texas that uses data to drive her mission. She considers herself a "bridge builder," using this data and cultural insights to reach across the aisle to solve problems. She gave a passionate speech about the economics, data, and ultimately motivations to dehumanized transgenders; how important it is to understand that each side of the discussion truly believes that they're doing what's right.
Jessica believes in fighting discrimination with data-driven discussions. She shared some inspirational words including, "If you're not loving past your comfort zone, keep going" and stats as it relates to suicide rates of transgenders (41%) in context to the general population (2%). A couple of other compelling quotes from Jessica included "Data is how I do my job. Love is why I do my job" and "Fear can convince us that walls are a form of love, but radical and sometimes scary love can open hearts." Ultimately, it was a relevant discussion for brands to consider as they look to be adaptive in social equity conversations.