As COVID put live events on hold, sports organizations experimented with myriad ways to bring the game to fans and fans to the game. Major League Baseball had cardboard cutouts, UEFA Champions League had a TikTok stadium wave, and the NBA had “Michelob Ultra Courtside.” The last was arguably the year’s finest example of technology allowing people to experience live events as closely as possible to the real thing during a year of strict pandemic-imposed lockdown. FCB New York, Michelob Ultra and Microsoft joined forces to create a platform that placed fans in virtual “stadiums seats” that allowed them to watch NBA games together in the same “room,” conversing and cheering as if they were courtside in real life, via Microsoft “Teams” technology.
Michelob Ultra's tech-fueled idea brought fans into NBA games
At the same time, the players themselves were surrounded by their fans while they played within the NBA’s Orlando Bubble, via massive virtual screens. Fans acquired “tickets” to the games by scanning a Michelob Ultra bottle, leading to an overall 35% growth in sales. The effort garnered 13 billion media impressions and even became part of the gameplay in the 2020 edition of video game “NBA 2K.” The campaign also earned the Creativity Award for best Experiential idea of the year.