Minnesota Vikings’ new app shows how sport can leverage VR

If you follow NFL teams on digital media – a fascinating follow quite aside from the action on the field – you’ll know that the Minnesota Vikings are one of the most creative sporting organisations around. And this week, they’ve partnered with 360 VR firm Zeality to launch their first Virtual Reality app just in time for the new year.

The app, available for Oculus users, allows Vikings fans to watch footage from every home game since the opening of their US Bank Stadium in 2016, and will also let fans take a virtual tour of the stadium, which can still just about be called ‘new’.

The use of VR to deliver content to fans is becoming more and more common for sports teams and even some broadcasters. BT Sport have shown live sporting events such as the Champions League final and Premier League football live in VR. And Tottenham Hotspur have recently teamed with Seven League to create an interactive tour of their old and now demolished White Hart Lane ground which, although offered in 360 degree video and not in VR, is a similar kind of content offered up by the Vikings, giving fans the chance to really immerse themselves in the trappings of the club.

But where the Vikings have gone slightly further is in offering match highlights in VR, allowing fans the opportunity to experience a game in something approaching the conditions in which they’d be able to watch the game if they were there in real life in the stadium.

This is, perhaps, something that teams can do better than even broadcasters – at least in theory.

With only a limited number of places in the stadium, and with a number of fans around the world far greater than the seats available, if clubs were in a position to offer Virtual Reality places to fans who could watch every game from a specific angle – as though they had season tickets for a certain seat – they could certainly go some way to solving that problem.

VR isn’t there yet in terms of mainstream appeal, of course, nor is it there in terms of functionality either. For some, the headset is perhaps too clunky for something they’d want to wear every day, whilst having it on for an entire sporting event – some take hours – might also be prohibitive. But like every technological advancement, these are the sorts of problems which are eventually overcome. Indeed, it might be other forces which speed up VR’s move into the mainstream anyway, with Facebook owning Oculus and potentially launching a ‘Venues’ feature to go alongside the ‘Watch’ feature available in the US. If that happens – or something like it – VR could come even closer to people’s everyday lives in lots of different sectors like music and entertainment as well as sport.

Innovations like those from the Vikings go hand in hand with these advancements, showing the possibilities in terms of content that can be produced to enhance the lives of sports fans around the globe and in every different sport, and which would be possible to roll out on an even grander scale if the climate is right.

Although all we’re talking about at the moment is a stadium tour and some highlights packages, there’s certainly scope for expanding on it and that should be exciting: especially if you’re a fan who lives in a different country to the team you support.

About author

Chris McMullan
Chris McMullan 688 posts

Chris is a sports journalist and editor of Digital Sport - follow him on Twitter @CJMcMullan_

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