As Philadelphia Eagles fans braved the cold and wind outside of Lincoln Financial Field on a Sunday last month before taking on the Carolina Panthers, dozens got in lines to bide the time before the gates opened. Some wanted a photo with a super-sized version of last year’s Super Bowl ring, while others waited for a shot with a sculpture or their moment with Swoop, the team’s costumed eagle mascot. And yet more stood in line for a bean bag toss sponsored by Iseptaphilly, where they could win a free T-shirt, while others huddled by Dunkin’s tent to test a tiny cup of pumpkin-spiced coffee.
However, tucked next to a van near the wall with a table of cheese was one attraction that didn’t have a line: a six-foot tall grey plastic replica of the Vince Lombardi Trophy. The trophy, made of recycled bottle caps from past games and other materials, is part of a new partnership between the Eagles and Braskem America, a plastics company based in Philadelphia that has just come on board this season as one of the team’s main stadium sponsors.
However, while some stopped by to get their photo taken with the trophy, what many missed was a podium right next to it that unlocked a new play for the team: augmented reality videos.
The feature, which debuted within the Eagles’s mobile app this NFL season, allows Braskem to sponsor a short video detailing the recycling program and how the trophy was made. To unlock it, users click on the title within the app before pointing their phone at the podium trigging the AR. The short clip then directs users to a longer two-minute version to learn more. While the experience is pretty basic compared to what some brands are doing with AR over the past year, it’s a first for the team—and a test that could lead to more AR multimedia later this season.
“If you walk the length (of the stadium) you’ll see so much photography, so much history, so much storytelling that’s already happening in a static way throughout our walls and halls,” said Jen Kavanagh, svp of media and marketing for the Eagles. “So this was something that sparked a lot of ideas; how to do more storytelling on the AR side.”
According to Brian Napoli, head of corporate partnerships for the Eagles, the feature was part of a broader sponsorship by Braskem to highlight the company’s and the team’s shared interested in sustainability to show the process of recycling. It’s part of a broader initiative by the team, which also includes wind turbines and solar panels sponsored by NRG.
At first, the idea of Braskem being a sponsor didn’t necessarily seem to fit with many of the other stadium sponsors. Digital ads within the stadium during the game mostly consisted of consumer brands like Bud Light, American Airlines, Verizon and Miller Lite, along with more local ones like Bob’s Discount Furniture and Rothman Orthopedics. However, Joe Paolucci, Braskem’s sustainability leader, said the idea was to focus on sustainability rather than a direct sell.
“The fans are not going to buy pellets from us,” he said. “But we explained that our message was more about recycling and sustainability.”
The AR tech was developed by YinzCam, a Pittsburgh, Pa.,-based company that’s also developed AR features for the Toronto Raptors and Cleveland Cavaliers. So why AR? Tanmay Patel, director of digital technology for the Eagles, said the team could have had a large billboard or TV ad explaining the bottle caps project. However, he said the trophy idea was more engaging for fans. It also let the team show off its increased use of the mobile app, which the company said is now used for scanning about 80 percent of tickets along with game day content, press conferences and directions from the navigational app, Waze.
However, despite the phone-focused fans, very few people seemed interested in trying the AR before the game. Often fans would show up and hand their phone to a representative to take their photo in front of the trophy before walking away to another spot. It was almost as if they didn’t even notice the AR-equipped podium placed next to the main attraction.
Whether or not fans are interested could be more of a litmus test for the average person’s appetite for AR at a time when brands, media companies and tech giants are all increasingly betting on the space.
Asked about this lack of interest, Patel said they have 10 of the AR triggers located around the stadium near concession stands for fans to scan while they wait. The company is also marketing it through social media and in messaging to season tickets holders. It was also featured on the stadium’s Jumbotron during the game, and volunteers have been asked to tell anyone stopping by a bit about the trophy and the AR experience.
“We’re establishing benchmarks,” Kavanagh said. “We’re just getting to understand the place from which we can start.”
Braskem doesn’t seem too worried about the lack of fan awareness yet, either. According to Paolucci, the goal is to help people understand where their trash goes after a game. He said that while many people think recycling is easy, it’s not always the case.
“I don’t think a lot of people understand everything that has to happen around recycling to give it a second life, whether it’s bottle cap into a bottle cap or a bottle cap into a trophy.”