- The Major League Baseball live streamed the Home Run Derby VR Championship competition on multiple social media platforms, including Twitch, YouTube, Facebook and Mixer on July 16, a news release announced.
- The event, held at the Geico All-Star FanFest, featured commentary from MLB Network’s Alexa Datt, gamers RealShelfy and Fuzzy, and MLB All-Star Fred Lynn, as well as giveaways for viewers. The top 32 scorers from the thousands who attended the FanFest and Play Ball Park and participated in the virtual batter’s box qualified for the competition. Winners of the bracket-style competition could win a grand prize that includes a custom Tiffany & Co. Official Derby trophy and four tickets to the 2018 MLB All-Star Game.
- The competition used a special All-Star version of the virtual reality game that features Nationals Park. Using a VR bat controller, fans had 90 seconds to hit as many home runs as they could. The VR experience, developed by MLB Games and VR team, uses the HTC Vive Pro VR system.
As marketers continue to experiment with virtual reality (VR) and discover how the technology could fit into their brand strategies, the technology seems well-suited for immersive sports experiences. Live-streaming the VR home run championship will likely extend the entertainment value for the MLB beyond simply watching games, and can help professional sports leagues engage with their younger fans, who are more tech-savvy and less likely to watch live games on TV.
The MLB continues to invest in VR to provide unique, immersive experiences to fans. Last summer, the league announced a three-year partnership with Intel to offer free live and on-demand VR content on the Intel True VR App. The partnership included plans to live stream an out-of-market game weekly on the app, along with post-game highlights and on-demand replays. Fans could also change up their views of the games through four camera angles and access real-time statistics during the game. Turner Sports also announced plans to partner with Intel on VR content around the 2018 NBA All-Star Game. Fans could experience the game’s action from different locations in the arena.
Though VR technology is still relatively new and its use in marketing has been slow, research has shown that VR brings high levels of engagement. A YuMe study released in October showed that in-game VR ads aided same-day recall for 70% of viewers in formats, like pre-roll video ads, branded logos and 3D branded objects. Consumers appreciated how the ads were integrated and also found the VR ads to be less intrusive than other digital ads.