By Michael Butler
October 16, 2020
How do you help a football team connect with its fans during a pandemic? One unique option: augmented reality and cool mural artwork.
Center City-based MVP Interactive specializes in consumer engagement technology, using virtual and augmented reality to enhance brand experiences. In August, the tech company met with the Tennessee Titans’ digital and marketing teams to learn about how the NFL team was already working to engage fans in the coming season.
With a tight turnaround, MVP Interactive helped bring a digital mural to life for the Tennessee faithful in four weeks, CEO James Giglio told Technical.ly.
Mural Art to Engage Fans
Like many NFL teams affected by COVID-19, the Titans had to plan how to engage a fan base that could not attend games because of COVID-19. Giglio and his team saw creating a digital mural as a great to reflect Nashville’s affinity for murals. The mural by artist Eric “Mobe” Bass would also allow the team to pay homage to notable Tennessee natives like the late civil rights leader John Lewis and legendary University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers basketball coach Pat Summit.
“Much like Philly, Nashville has grown into a mural-based city and it’s part of their attraction,” he said. “We wanted to get messaging of ‘Tennessee Tough.’ There have been a lot of tornadoes and COVID, so we wanted to show the resilience of community.”
With a football player spreading its arms out at the core, Giglio and his team realized they had an opportunity to create artwork reflective of the city that could live throughout the entire NFL season. The references to historical Tennessee figures and including Tennessee’s 90 county names within the mural would allow it to also appeal to non-football fans.
Mural viewers can walk past the mural and either visit a website or scan a QR code to launch an experience through their phone and toggle with their camera phone. When phone cameras catch a marker on that mural, phones are prompted to start the AR experience.
When users tap on their screens, the mural “comes to life,” said Giglio. The paint and the artwork scrapes across the mural. The Tennessee counties’ names appear highlighted across the mural and an animation of the football player waving his arms helps “hype up” the experience.
Using a Unity engine at its core, MVP Interactive collaborated with software developer 8th Wall and their platform allowed for web-based AR experience. Working with 8th Wall allowed MVP Interactive to use a platform that didn’t require a third party to build an app, reducing app fatigue for users.
MVP Interactive focused on enhancing Bass’ freehand artwork that provided the foundation for the digital mural. The company’s team converted his original artwork into a version they could work with digitally and had full creative control in terms of motion graphics and 3D aspects, Giglio said. For the 3D model of the football player in the mural, MVP designed the figure to move in the way EA Sports designs characters for the Madden football games.
Jennifer Hinkle is the senior director of marketing and digital strategy for the Titans and collaborated with MVP Interactive for the digital mural. She told Technical.ly she’s pleased with the reception the mural — standing at 140 feet wide and 60 feet tall — has received so far at its highly visible location in downtown Nashville across from the Music City Center. And had it not been for the pandemic, she believes that thousands more people would have walked by and engaged with the mural because of the frequent conferences and concerts that happen in downtown Nashville.
“We’ve had so many different events and things evolve and get canceled,” she said. “We thought this was something outdoor that people could still engage with anytime.”
Giglio said that an added advantage of the digital mural format is that is easy to replicate across different forms of media. The Titans have discussed putting prints of the mural in the stadium and MVP interactive plans to create a PDF for people to recreate the mural experience away from the mural.
According to Giglio, the mural has received 6,000 engagements in its first few weeks. A 2.0 version is set to release next week, and there are talks of creating a holiday version as December approaches.Michael Butler is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
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