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Sunday, March 3, 2024

How Augmented Reality Is Propelling Iowa’s Sports Coverage

Iowa - Football - AR

The University of Iowa’s athletics department already offers what many consider to be one of the stronger apps available in the college sports digital space. HawkeyeSports is the “one-stop-shop” for all things Iowa athletics by providing fans with comprehensive statistics, schedules, team information, and other relevant content.

“The HawkeyeSports app has been popular with our fans, and we’re just scratching the surface,” said Associate Athletics Director for Strategic Communications and Marketing Charlie Taylor.

Now, the Hawkeyes are adding an entirely new element to their digital playbook, and taking their app to the next level with the addition of an augmented reality platform the team is calling Xtream HawkVision.

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“It’s exciting for us,” Taylor said. “Our thought process is constantly ‘how can we improve our fans experience?’ You hear that tossed around a lot in our industry, particularly around coming to a game. We’ve decided to look not just at the game day as an experience, but everything we do as an experience — including digital and mobile.”

Created in collaboration with SIDEARM Sports, Xtream HawkVision is going to open up a new world to Hawkeye sports fans — literally.

“Going into it, the thinking was ‘what could we do to stand out to current Hawkeye fans first and foremost, and engage the next-gen audience we hope to bring into our fanbase?’” Taylor explained. “Any time our athletic department’s external team does something, it has to add value. We felt we could best achieve our goals through augmented reality.”

Adding an AR component to the HawkeyeSports app builds out Iowa’s marketing and communication repertoire, and creates an interactive experience for Hawkeye fans before, during, and after the game.

To experience this new AR content, fans can download the HawkeyeSports App, select the Xtreme HawkVision platform from the menu, enable camera access, and scan unique items or logos involved in the Hawkeyes AR campaign that feature special codes, and then exclusive content appears.

In addition to building out the fan experience, the Xtreme HawkVision provides an opportunity for the university’s brand partners to tap into a passionate college football audience, as Taylor pointed out.

“With content that comes to life, it provides an entirely new experience and is a powerful way to channel consumers to our various brand partners.”

This year, the Hawkeyes have partnered with Coca-Cola, Iowa Corn, and the Iowa Farm Bureau to create four activations that Taylor thinks will get fans pretty excited. With Coca-Cola, they’ll be doing a weekly countdown of the Top 10 Iowa football moments of the last 20 years, which fans take part in by buying the uniquely designed Coke cans featuring the Hawks logo that will be sold throughout the state.

To participate, fans can download the HawkeyeSports app and scan the cans via the Xtreme Hawkvision platform, which then populates exclusive video content related to the weekly countdown.

With Coke, the Hawkeyes have also arranged to sell freshly designed souvenir cups during five of their seven home games that feature an AR activation made available by scanning the cup. “Taking it a step further, with the souvenir cups, fans get another specific piece of content while in the stadium based on who the team is playing that day. There will be greatest plays, history, etc.,” Taylor outlined.

Two of the other activations involve souvenir cups as well. During the Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk rivalry game when the University of Iowa plays Iowa State, there will be special cups sponsored by Iowa Corn that can be scanned to unlock content built around the best players throughout that rivalry over the years. The other cup, sponsored by the Iowa Farm Bureau, will take place during the ANF Black and Gold Spirit Game, and follows a similar protocol, except this AR activation will be based on the Hawkeye alum that the team chooses to honor this year during the game.

The final partner, Mediacom Cable, is perhaps one of the biggest, as it is the presenting sponsor and somewhat of an inspiration for the Xtreme HawkVision platform.

“They provide Xtreme internet,” Taylor explained, so it was a natural fit.

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It’s the company’s technology that allows the speed required to make these AR activations possible, and the ‘Xtreme campaign’ pairing is self-explanatory. As for Mediacom’s actual activation, that’s still being developed as it will be built into the school’s football stadium, which is currently under construction.

As for the future, Taylor noted that “this year is about getting people used to it, but we are really trying to think big about how to connect with the next generation. So to be most effective, we are going where they are. Obviously, we want them to come to us, but the best way to do that is to engage in ways their comfortable with where they are — which is digital.”

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