One of the challenges of marketing virtual reality is portraying the dimensionality of the experience within the confines of traditional advertising, but a new trailer for NFL Pro Era, the first fully licensed NFL VR game, manages to translate those thrills with verve.
The film stars Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson immersed in the feverish intensity of a game—in the middle of his living room. The stylish and heart-pumping piece pulls him into the stadium, where he calls plays, scores touchdowns and dives into drills. The artfully edited mix of live-action, game footage and CGI scenes, backed by the hit track “Surround Sound” by J.I.D. featuring 21 Savage and Baby Tate, converges to skillfully convey, in mere 2D, the expansiveness of VR immersion. The ultimate message? That NFL Pro Era turns you, the everyday gamer, into an NFL quarterback.
The game recently launched for the MetaQuest and Sony PlayStation VR platforms and is currently a top-seller on the former.
The ambitions for the project were big. According to StatusPro Head of Creative Sean Matthews, the brief was “to make a best in category VR gameplay trailer” starring Jackson.
It’s perhaps the least you could expect from a game that was founded by two football players, Andrew “Hawk” Hawkins, formerly of the Cincinnati Bengals and the Cleveland Browns, and Troy Jones, a former college quarterback and tech vet of companies including ByteCubed and Mixed River.
"With new technologies like VR, you’re not only tasked with building awareness and understanding of your product and brand, but also in the category,” Matthews added. “So there is a good bit of education to do, which is a challenge. You have to sweat the small stuff but also make sure the overall piece is enjoyable. Our answer was to give the asset as much style as we could, lean into what makes Lamar great and surround ourselves with talented and creative people.”
The trailer was created out of Kitchen Table, the independent agency behind the relaunch of iconic Black beauty brand, Madam CJ Walker. According to the agency's Founder and Chief Creative Officer Gabrielle Shirdan, StatusPro Founders Hawkins and Jones' background as players brought a unique level of authenticity to the game, so “we had to keep that same energy in this work. This brand and the game are like no other, so we approached the creative at that same level. As Hawk says, the game is truly as fun as it looks. We worked to capture that, and Lamar Jackson made it easy.”
Kitchen Table worked with production company Good Company. Director Spike Jordan was at the helm, with cinematography by Chuck Owens. Editing was by Logan Seaman.
As for how her team approached the direction of the creative, they worked hard to avoid clichés, “trope transitions and ‘Oh look, I’m in another world!’ scripts. We studied the game and used the technology to our advantage. We weren’t just capturing VR; we were capturing the POV of an NFL quarterback, and when you think about it like that, the challenge becomes the creative.”
Equally important, StatusPro, like her own company, is Black-owned, so to do justice for the brand and its product was “not a task we took lightly," Shirdan added.
When Shirdan created her agency, she said she shaped it to create work “for the culture” and “from within it,” which ultimately benefited this project. “Our teams are curated to have the audience represented around the table, so our creatives happen to be former players and gamers and creators of the culture; it makes the work feel real.”