What Carolina Panthers’ Giant Cat Can Tell Us About AR Marketing

Posted on

We’ve covered several augmented reality (AR) stories on our blog, but none hit quite so close to home as this one on the Carolina Panthers!

North Carolina went wild with cheer when its homegrown football team on Sunday released a virtual version of its mascot, which not only ran amok across the stadium but also tore up the flag of its opponent team, the New York Jets.

Video by Carolina Panthers

Generating global interest, this showstopping display in the Bank of America stadium scored newsworthy coverage early last week. Made by The Famous Group (TFG) using Epic Games’ Unreal Engine, the gigantic AR cat roamed about the real world.

Reports in The Verge and Sportico say this AR illusion was made by overlaying a video of the real environment with a video of the virtual one. The virtual one has a replica of the real-world stadium, which was made invisible when the video was shot.

What Kind of Tracking Method Did It Use?

Previously, we have tackled how AR works and touched on the two types of tracking methods for visual AR.

  • Markerless tracking uses predefined features of an environment to situate AR assets. It doesn’t have specific triggers and relies on registered dimensions and features to call upon AR graphics. A common example is virtual try-ons where cosmetic brands place digital lipstick on a face’s mouth.
  • Marker-based tracking uses specific images to call upon AR assets. Registered in the app’s database are picture or ID-encoded markers that signal the software to place AR over that particular marker. Imagine hovering your phone camera over a QR code, except when your phone’s sensors detect the code, AR images appear.

So while it looks like the tracking method used for the AR panther is of the markerless kind, the approach is completely different. The only place the panther can move is the inside of the stadium, the dimensions of which have already been predefined in the popular game engine.

TFG owner Jon Slusser pointed out in an interview this display of AR prowess is a milestone in the use of the technology. “We started getting calls from around the world asking, ‘What is this? And how can we do it?’” he said.

It’s been such a success, in fact, that Excel Sports Management said more than $60,000 for the Panthers, sponsors, and other brands mentioned resulted from the 30-second clip, which has amassed 5.8 million views on a tweet as of this writing, Sportico reports.

Tweet by @Panthers

Carolina Panthers’ AR Cat: Marketing Strategy or Technological Stunt?

The idea behind this value-generating viral video was conceived as “a way to hype up a crowd,” Jake Burns, chief revenue officer of Panthers, said in an interview, according to several reports.

“Now that we’ve seen the success and the earned media that it’s drawn, we definitely feel that there’s a lot of opportunities beyond what we had originally intended,” he added.

Watching the clip, people might regard the thing as something that’s merely meant to inspire fanfare. However, what viewers and Carolina Panthers fans are essentially witnessing is AR marketing in action, albeit on a large scale. 

It generated a ton of interest from American football and tech fans alike, even piquing the interest of those outside of this demographic, as shown in the engagement the tweet received.

Here are a few of the responses the viral tweet received:

Tweet by @DogecoinChrisB
Tweet by @NasciSandra
Tweet by @amedicalfuture
Tweet by @debarati_tw
Tweet by @TheCyberPage
Tweet by @bottlerocket

The giant AR cat successfully raised awareness of the Carolina Panthers brand and got people to engage on its official Twitter account’s post. But indirectly, it brought to viewers’ attention the brands sponsoring the team. That’s millions of viewers possibly looping the logo-filled clip.

What makes this so monumental — for the Carolina Panthers and AR marketing? For one, it proves just how attractive AR is when done right. And for another, it highlights the endless possibilities of what AR can do in a marketing campaign. 

According to Yahoo, Slusser said, “When you really start thinking about the creative possibilities for both entertainment, sponsorship, promotion, information, and data that can be put into the scene, it’s very very powerful technology.” 

We couldn’t agree more.

And if you’re curious to know the more familiar and pragmatic applications of AR today, here’s a quick recap.

How Other Brands Employed AR in their Marketing

  • MAC Cosmetics & L’Oreal: On MAC’s website, you can virtually try on different products before purchase to see whether each pigment suits your skin tone or cosmetic needs. L’Oreal, on the other hand, released last year an AR makeup line called Signature Faces, which users can apply across different video conferencing software platforms, including Zoom and Skype. Both strategies are purposeful and engaging, giving users an accessible way to reach each brand.
  • IKEA: This beloved Swedish furniture brand is one of the early forerunners of functional AR marketing. Its mobile app, IKEA Place, situates accurately scaled AR renderings of its furniture into the user’s immediate environment, which gives interested buyers a realistic view of different pieces vis-a-vis with their desired space.   
  • Kendra Scott: If you want a success story where a business survives the pandemic because of integrating AR into its marketing, look no further than Kendra Scott. The luxury jewelry brand nearly closed because of COVID-19, but because they introduced virtual try-ons to their target audience, they were able to continue operating despite the setbacks they encountered.

What Makes AR Experiences a Powerful Marketing Tool Today, As Seen in Carolina Panthers’ Campaign

Integrating AR technology into marketing strategies isn’t new, of course, but what the Carolina Panthers did was use it unconventionally.

AR is commonly viewed as the ultimate tool for convenience, making it apt for promoting brands and converting interest into sales. An article in the HBR notes how AR “reduces any uncertainty customers might feel about their choices and shortens the sales cycle.”

But its capabilities can also branch out from utility to amusement. Carolina Panthers isn’t the first to employ AR in this way. Other brands have also promoted their products with the end goal of entertaining their audience.

In 2014, Pepsi Max turned a bus stop into a sort of portal for strange things to occur — think flying saucers and robotic invasion. Today, it’s an oft-cited example of a successful AR marketing campaign. The AR-enhanced bus stop created so much buzz that it’s safe to say the company got a huge return on investment out of it.

Watch the technology behind Pepsi’s AR campaign. Video by BBC News

That was seven years ago, and the fact that people are still excited about Carolina Panthers’ AR cat shows how marketing using this technology is currently far from the norm. There’s so much terrain yet to be explored in AR marketing, and if brands dedicated time to maximizing this technology right now, the results could be unimaginably rewarding.

In Summary

The Carolina Panthers stunned millions with its gigantic AR cat that prowled and ran about the Bank of America stadium, tearing up the flag of the Carolina-based team’s opponent that Sunday.

The viral video raked in over 5.8 million views as of this writing and has generated more than $60,000 for the Panthers and its sponsors.

We think this event, which sparked so much interest and coverage, is a testament to the prowess of using AR as a part of a brand’s marketing campaign, whether for reasons of utility or entertainment.

NarraSoft Can Create Captivating AR Experiences for Your Target Audience

If you’re looking to integrate AR into your marketing campaigns, video games, eCommerce website, eLearning modules, and more, don’t hesitate to send a message our way. 

NarraSoft offers augmented reality art development and 3D digital art creation services to companies across industries. We’ve designed AR assets for furniture, apparel, and wedding brands, and we’re more than happy to help you build an amazing digital project.

Send us an email at sales@narrasoft.com or message our contact form or chat box. We will give you a free consultation, so contact us today!

Justine Jordan

Justine Jordan is a content and copy writer. She has written for a popular business daily in the Philippines and for various startups across the globe before transitioning to work for NarraSoft. She graduated cum laude from the University of the Philippines-Diliman with a bachelor's degree in journalism.