Apple AR Kit MLBAM Integration - Sponsorship Game Changer

Apple Announces ARKit + MLB At Bat – Photo Courtesy of Apple/Engadget

In case you somehow missed it, yesterday was iPhone day, the first official reveal of Apple’s next generation mobile device. As an aspiring design enthusiast and tech geek, every September I find myself tuned in to the keynote. Normally it’s for the new “must-have” features and Apple’s typically exceptional design, but this time there was something else that caught my eye. Among the announcement of three new iPhones and a slew of new-to-Apple tech, one of the biggest reveals received just a few seconds of coverage.

While introducing the iPhone 8 Phil Schiller, Apple’s SVP Worldwide Marketing, casually announced that the device would support ARKit and an integration with MLB At Bat. You can see a preview in the image above. Though Schiller’s mention was short on detail it appears that fans inside MLB Stadiums will be able to launch the At Bat app, hold up their device, and learn about the players on the field.

There’s most certainly some exciting tech that goes into enabling this functionality. Until we get more detail on that from Apple/MLBAM let’s focus on two ways this will change the game for MLB fans, clubs, and sponsors.

Enhanced Fan Experience

With seemingly endless data to be broken down in a given game, this AR integration provides fans with on-demand access to statistics. For casual fans this is a great way to get to know the players on the field, and for the die-hard fans it provides easy access to data they crave.

Statistics overlays are just the start. There’s a real opportunity to integrate video highlights and imagery, and to create other interaction points to enhance the fan experience.

The addition of a noteworthy new fan engagement initiative is more than just a valuable marketing tool. It also represents a potential sponsor integration that can convert the investment from a marketing expense to a direct revenue generator.

Sponsorship Integrations

The traditional sports sponsorship market is changing rapidly as marketers seek authentic, engaging, and measurable integrations. Digital platforms like AR are a premier platform for modern sponsorships.

A tight AR integration with an MLB app means that a sponsor could own an interactive fan engagement experience inside the ballpark. This could be anything from an AR treasure hunt where fans need to find a soda bottle to win a prize, to an in-depth demo of an auto manufacturer’s newest vehicle triggered by scanning a brand’s sign in the park. Check out this demo of a vehicle customizer demonstrating the power of ARKit:

An activation like this inside the ballpark, facilitated by the MLB or a team represents tremendous value to the right brand. And, because it’s all happening inside an league-owned digital environment, data capture and lead generation for partners is a breeze.

ARKit integration means the league and clubs can create exciting new sponsorship activations and integrations that will attract the next generation of brands and marketing leaders. By increasing sponsorship inventory, enhancing the value of current signage, and opening new partnership opportunities, ARKit will help sports organizations capture more revenue.

Other Opportunities

In addition to elevating the fan experience and sponsorship opportunities this is an exciting addition to the At Bat app. ARKit powered data overlays represent a vehicle to drive downloads, use, and subscriptions which is great for the MLB and its member clubs.

While NFL teams such as the Vikings and Chiefs recently announced AR features for their apps, this is the first league-wide implementation we’re seeing and the first with on-field content. That shouldn’t be the case for too long, though. The NHL, PGA Tour, and WWE are also using MLBAM’s tech and will likely have access to similar integrations in the future.

AR is a clear growth area in sports, and it’s exciting to see that Apple is pushing the technology and leagues are finding ways to leverage it.

Looking to discuss AR or other digital sports activations? Hit me up on Twitter @MathewBernstein and let’s chat.