How Sports Teams Can Leverage Pokémon-Style Augmented Reality

By Adam Grossman and Joshua Herzberg

The Pokémon Go mobile game was released on Apple AAPL -0.03% iOS and Google GOOGL +0.50% Android platforms on July 6. Not only did it almost immediately become one of the most popular games of all time, the app passed Twitter TWTR -1.53% and FB +0.59% in daily users in less than two weeks. So how did a game that features small colorful monsters that users “catch” by visiting real world locations become so popular so quickly?

Pokémon Go is the latest game to take advantage of Augmented Reality (AR). AR enables users to view data overlaid on the real world. Computer vision and object recognition allow devices to change the user’s perception of the physical reality around them. For Pokémon Go, this means overlaying the interactive game map on the real streets and buildings of reality and allowing users to catch Pokémon using their camera. What makes Pokémon so attractive to users is this intersection of the virtual and real world as created by AR.

This is something that should be embraced by all sports organizations. In particular, sports teams of all sizes are facing issues with having fans come to stadiums for games and live events. While media agreements do drive significant revenue for major professional and collegiate sports organizations, attendance is a multibillion-dollar issue. College football has seen attendance drop for the past five years.

The problem for many sports teams is that viewing the game at home can often be better than coming to a venue. A sports fan can sit on his/her favorite couch, order his/her favorite food, not have to deal with traffic issues, and often have better views of the action from home. Bathrooms are only a room away as well. Because of this dynamic, many sports organizations have already made building connectivity into the fan experience a central part of the solution to this problem. The NFL has spent years bringing Wi-Fi to stadiums so that fans can have the same connectivity in the stadium that they do at their homes.