December 24, 2015 / By Sean Donnelly
Imagine being on the field for the Super Bowl without having to leave your home. That is the type of experience that virtual reality could potentially bring to consumers. As such, brands are preparing their content strategies for a virtual reality takeover.
With the emergence of VR, brands will soon be able to reach consumers from a brand new channel – one that creates a one-of-a-kind experience. The platform will put consumers in the middle of a story, giving them the freedom to explore the experience as if actually standing there. For brands, the best type of content emotionally connects consumers via great storytelling, and the use of virtual reality to target consumers on a large-scale will enable marketers to re-engineer the consumer experience.
One of the biggest developments in the VR landscape is the Oculus Rift. Facebook invested $2 billion into Oculus, an investment that put the social network at the forefront of the virtual reality conversation. Facebook has already started brainstorming ideas to optimize reach and increase engagement during brand launches using VR. According to the Wall Street Journal, Facebook is currently in the development stages of a virtual reality app. Beginning in January with the consumer release of the Oculus Rift in Q1 of 2016, virtual reality will finally have its chance to be accessed by mainstream audiences around the world.
In anticipation, brand strategies have already begun to take shape. The New York Times launched their own virtual reality experience that puts readers in the “middle” with the help of a Google Cardboard viewer that was cleverly inserted in home deliveries of the newspaper’s Sunday edition. As the headsets become more practical and consumer interest in virtual reality continues to grow, the opportunity for extraordinary content rises exponentially. For now, people are warming up to the idea through the early stages of VR content, such as this 360-degree video on Facebook that give fans the ability to fly with the Blue Angels. VR is proving to be a competitive market, as Facebook, Google, HTC, Sony and Samsung are all jumping in on the action.
It’s only natural that professional sports teams and brands are getting on the action, as well, with the Seahawks putting fans on the field during pre-game introductions and Showtime broadcasting 360-degree fights on YouTube. The emergence of virtual reality comes at just the right time, as consumers are increasingly eager to engage with brands in new and unexpected ways. The year 2016 is a pivotal time for VR, not just for the sports industry, but for brand marketers as a whole.
By the end of 2016, we may be looking back at a milestone year when brands redefined the definition of reality.