- "Angry Birds," the mobile game franchise that inspired a feature film, TV series and countless merchandised products, is getting an football-themed makeover leading up to Super Bowl LII, according to a press release shared with Mobile Marketer.
- The National Football League and developer Rovio Entertainment partnered to let video game players of "Angry Birds 2" and "Angry Birds Evolution" outfit their characters with jerseys and helmets from the league's 32 teams. The NFL in-game graphics are available from Jan. 24 until Feb. 4, the day of the big game.
- Meanwhile, Virtex Apps designed an augmented reality (AR) app for live NFL games called "Virtex Arena" that lets stadium-goers use their smartphones to play a football video game during timeouts, commercial breaks and halftimes. Super Bowl LII will be the first time users can participate in the AR game at the stadium or while watching TV at home, according to a separate press release.
In an attempt to deepen engagement with football fans both at games and at home, NFL teams and the organization as a whole are enlisting mobile tech in fresh ways this season via AR, Snapchat, original programming on social media and real-time in-stadium engagement. In-venue AR apps are just starting to emerge and Super Bowl LII attendees will be able to sample a couple of different varieties. In addition to the Virtex game app, StubHub last week announced an AR app that will enable game attendees to the explore the stadium. With AR gaining steam, these deployments have the potential to introduce the technology to potential new users.
The Super Bowl LII makeover of the latest Angry Birds games is the first time the NFL has teamed up with Rovio for the popular video game franchise. Rovio has [previously created special editions of Angry Birds tie-ins with movies like "Star Wars," "Transformers" and "Rio."
With the Angry Birds partnership, the NFL is taking another stride toward making football fun and innovative, while engaging fans with their favorite teams in a creative mobile fashion. The app might also compel younger consumers — a key audience the NFL aims to capture — who are shunning TV to spend more time engaging with football-related mobile media on a gaming app they're already on. The organization smartly tapped Angry Birds, the franchise that's worth nearly $1 billion.
Originally, smartphone apps let fans look up information about teams and players, monitor scores and other news and share moments on social media. Many apps have evolved to give fans navigation tools to find parking, seating and stadium amenities like concessions. During the last season, teams like the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings started to experiment with mobile food ordering and pickup as their stadiums added more advanced Wi-Fi and mobile technology.
The mobile efforts aim to strengthen engagement with football fans at a time when viewership is declining — although it's too early to tell if game attendance also is dropping. Since 2005, the NFL has urged teams to report "tickets distributed" instead of the actual number of people who stepped through turnstiles, per Business Insider. That disparity explains the big difference between reported attendance and last season's Twitter memes that showed half-empty stadiums. The average audience for an NFL game fell 9.7% to 14.9 million viewers in 2017 from a year earlier, when viewership dropped 8%, according to CNBC. The Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers, Denver Broncos, Atlanta Falcons and New York Jets were among the teams that rolled out mobile-related promotions for fans during the last season in an attempt to connect with younger, loyal sports fans both at games and at home.