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A Virtual Reality Olympics? How Brands Are Using Tech in Rio to Enhance Audience Experiences

10/08/2016 15:23 | Updated 10 August 2016

The Rio Olympics 2016 will be celebrating and showcasing a variety of sports as the world watches, something that all sorts of brands will be keen to take advantage of. As with any sporting event, the Olympics are a great platform to expose your brand to a mass global audience, and it's interesting to note how advances in technology have it made much easier for them to do so. Unlike before, digital innovations will help brands create a unique way for their customers to experience the Games. This comes as audiences move away from being passive viewers, instead becoming interactive participators who expect to be fully immersed in experiences, something that brands are responding to and will be looking to do as soon as the Games kick off on Friday. Here I take a look at how brands will be using technology to enhance their audience's experiences throughout the two-week event.

Virtual Reality
Over the last few years we have seen a rise in the use of virtual reality at events across the world and this year's Olympics will be no exception. The Olympic Broadcasting Team will be showing the opening and closing ceremonies and one sporting event each day in virtual reality; something that has only been made possible due to technological advancements that have happened recently and will be new to the majority of people.

Virtual reality has the ability to reach a remote audience and immerse them in an experience. Samsung is one brand that will certainly be looking to take advantage of this. For this year's Olympics they have created a virtual reality film, 'Vanuatu Dreams', which can be experienced using their own VR glasses, Samsung Gear VR. They will also be partnering up with NBC in the US to broadcast over 100 hours of virtual reality and 360 videos via the NBC sports app. Those watching will find themselves transported to Rio and immersed in the events, all from their living rooms.

Social media
A strong social media presence has become the norm, simply because visibility and engagement with a brand's target audience is unrivalled when it comes to encouraging two-way interaction. It provides an element of immediacy that people now look for, the ability to receive and digest information quickly. People can now interact with brands via two-way experiences and this new dynamic needs to be incorporated into the experiences a brand creates. This is even heightened when there is a big event like the Olympics, with everyone looking to social media to get information, while being actively involved. This is why brands like Coca Cola and Airbnb have created social media campaigns. Coca Cola will be running a campaign called #ThatsGold, which will feature 79 athletes and will target 50 markets across the world. Meanwhile, Airbnb have become the first official alternative accommodation sponsor for the Olympics, and they will be celebrating this through a video campaign called #StayWithMe, designed to highlight 'a community at its best'.

Audience experiences
Audience experiences are being improved by convenience tech - the innovations we rely on that make day to day life much simpler. One of the best advancement in this area is cashless technology, allowing the everyday consumer to pay via smartphone, contactless card or even using a wristband. At this year's Olympics, Visa have created an innovative bracelet using near field technology that you can use to pay with at all 4,000 points of sale at the Olympic venues.

It has never been easier to connect brands with audiences, particularly with the integration of technology in everyday life. Digital innovations offer more opportunities to engage and fully immerse people in experiences, and this year's Olympics will be no exception. Brands are embracing the latest technology and adapting to a changing world of innovations to reach their consumers and enhance their experiences, whether they are in Rio or watching from home.

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