Tennessee Titans, The Famous Group Implement Mobile-Based, Mixed-Reality Game-Day Activation
Superba AR supplied the augmented-reality technology at Nissan Stadium
Playing in Nashville, a city known for its party-centric atmosphere, the Tennessee Titans put their fans at the center of game day. This season, the club is leveraging the power of mixed reality (MR) and the expertise of The Famous Group (TFG) for a new mobile-based application that allows fans to activate their own production elements over the field of play from wherever they’re sitting in Nissan Stadium.
“I think it’s important to find any way to make the live experience special and give people a reason to come to the game,” says David Schindler, senior director/executive producer, event presentation and production, Tennessee Titans. “We’re creating something that you aren’t getting at home.”
Looking for Something New: TFG Joins Production Plans During Offseason
All 32 NFL franchises marinate and mull over new production ideas during the offseason, but Schindler and his team — VP/Executive Creative Director Surf Melendez; Senior Director, Production, Broadcast and Technology, Brian Myers; and Content Producer, Live Events and Broadcast, Steve Wisinski — went to work with The Famous Group in the spring. After years of leveraging the company’s in-venue services, including its Vixi Suite software, as well as tapping into a relationship that goes back to Schindler’s time with the Atlanta Hawks (1999-2017), the Titans wanted to elevate their game-day possibilities.
“[The Famous Group] is a company that I trust and is great to work with,” says Schindler. “I had noticed their augmented-reality and mixed-reality activations in the past, so they presented the idea of a mobile MR experience to raise the bar on what we’re trying to do.”
The Famous Group’s core crew — which included EVP, Creative Technology, CJ Davis and Engineering Producer Jacob Woerther — fine-tuned the idea that inspired Schindler. Playing off the team’s 12th Titan pregame ceremony — in which a prominent celebrity, local figure, or former player thrusts a sword into the logo on the 50-yard line — the Titans developed a full slate of ideas to be included in the mobile-based project.
“When we did our schedule-release video that went viral, there was a fun way to tie that into this offering,” says Schindler. “The one that excited me the most was how to bring pyrotechnics back into the stadium.”
The final product has turned into an activation that fans had fun with during the Titans’ home opener vs. the Los Angeles Chargers on Sept. 17. After scanning a QR code displayed on the videoboard, fans were taken to a web-based platform and directed to point their phone’s camera at the 50-yard line. Once the system determines a fan’s specific seat, the platform allows them to shoot footballs at the opposing team’s logo (referencing incorrect responses from on-the-street interviews in the schedule-release video), plant their own sword on the logo, and shoot off pyrotechnics.
Inside the MR: Superba AR Partnership Supplies Graphics Overlays
The actual execution of the idea is quite simple. On the backend, The Famous Group taps into a partnership with Superba AR’s Stadium AR technology to develop the graphical overlays. For the mobile-based system to accurately depict the right location for fans at every seat, The Famous Group went to Nissan Stadium during the offseason to conduct a digital scan of the field. As for the graphics that users see, the Titans and The Famous Group are working to customize the overlays to match the specific week’s visiting team.
“We wanted to have multiple activations,” notes Schindler. “It won’t become a one-off [project]; at least one of the activations will change every week.”
For a project in its first implementation, the two entities are working to troubleshoot the aesthetics so that they improve as the season progresses. As with most creative projects, the activation from Week 2 vs. the Chargers will look different in the regular-season finale vs. the Jaguars in Week 17 on Jan. 7, 2024.
“In any development process,” says Schindler, “you start and then have to tweak it. There were a couple of iterations where we started out with some pods in the flames, but the pods were too big, so we ended up simplifying that and taking it away. We also played around with the animation of the sword and the way we destroyed the other team’s logo. There was nothing crazy that we had to rip up and start from scratch, but it was about tweaking the creative to make it feel real. Since it’s mixed reality, we wanted the flames to look like they’re actually coming out of the field.”
Finding the Right Time: Fans Are Encouraged To Play Along During the Game
Fans have the opportunity to play with the app throughout the game, but, for the activation to be used at the most efficient time, Schindler and the in-venue crew deploy videoboard prompts. For instance, according to Schindler, all three elements are best used during pregame.
“We want to promote this before the excitement starts,” he explains. “For me, it makes most sense to destroy the other team’s logo when their players come out on the field. Once our traditional video open plays on the videoboard, fans should stick their sword into the field when we do the 12th Titan ceremony. Then, during player introductions, you can have the pyrotechnics going off on your phone.”
Catching Fans’ Attention: Positive Feedback Promotes Enhanced Creativity
After only one home game, fans are extremely supportive of the production team’s efforts. From a sales standpoint, not only is the organization thrilled with the idea’s reception, but participating sponsor SeatGeek was happy with how it was presented.
“I’ve heard a lot of really positive feedback,” says Schindler, “but we want a lot more people experiencing it. We’re going to increase the communication with our season-ticket members to let them know that we’re adding more to this.”
Now that the creative cat is out of the bag, Titans fans are expecting the activation to be ready to go every week without technical hiccups. From Schindler’s point of view, having more eyes on this production element is a good thing and gives his team a chance to fire up the crowd before and during the game.
“My main concern while developing this was that I wasn’t going to release this thing unless it looked great,” he says. “We did a soft launch with a small number of people to test it out. I wasn’t 100% there to do it during the preseason, but I feel good about it now. For me, the pressure is communicating [this activation] effectively so that people are aware and want to be part of it.”
On Game Day: Titans Offer Exclusive Opportunity for Fans in the Stands
In-venue professionals are in constant competition with the flat-screen TVs and comfortable couches of fans’ homes. With broadcasts deploying new technologies and more-elaborate gear to capture angles in super-slow motion, game-presentation departments are doing whatever they can to encourage fans to come to the stadium. Offering catered and personalized experiences on a fan’s own phone can be the next step forward, and making it easily accessible help fans become a bigger part of game day.
“What we’re doing and at the level of intricate animation that we’re creating can only grow and become cooler,” adds Schindler. “There’s potential for these elements to become gamified in the future, and [this activation] provides a different look every time you come to Nissan Stadium. I think that this is the tip of the iceberg.”