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VR Marketing of Sports Destinations: Replacing Trade Shows, Fam Trips?

1 Jun, 2016

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

What happens in Vegas stays ... in virtual reality?

When Las Vegas instituted virtual reality (VR) tours to help lure potential vacationers, tourism officials viewed it as the inside line on a sure bet. And in this case, the odds makers saw it was a sure thing because they were following the lead of the sports industry, which had already used VR to involve fans in the game, as well as to help athletes to train without risk of injury.

Now, that technology is making its way into the actual marketing of institutions and facilities – something that is bound to percolate down to the sports travel sector.

According to an article in Sports Business Daily, colleges are already using VR as a form of recruitment. In that article, University of Michigan, as Jay Harbaugh, Michigan’s Tight Ends Coach and Assistant Special Teams Coach, told Sports Illustrated: “In recruiting, a lot of times we’re stuck in ‘imagination world.’ With VR, instead of just saying, ‘Hey, this is our team meeting room; imagine what it’s like when it’s full,’ you get a chance to take things out of the fantasy realm and let kids see and feel, to some degree, what life would be like as a Wolverine.”

And as sports tourism continues to evolve, count on cities, sports commissions, CVBs and others to harness the new technology in order to market their facilities and help potential clients get the experience of actually holding a tournament there.

The advantages are notable: as event owners and rights-holders have smaller staffs and become increasingly pressed for time, and as destinations’ budgets are pared back, fam trips, while fun, are less prevalent. As a result, destinations are forging relationships with VR-specific companies to develop packages tailored to the facilties they want to market.

Travel Weekly noted, “the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority’s (LVVCA) foray into virtual reality started about two years ago when it partnered with Google on GeoVegas, a site that featured steerable 360-degree photos and videos inside Vegas hotels and destinations. It functioned like a digital walk-through, enabling viewers to tour a hotel, nightclub or restaurant.”

The opportunity for sports destinations to offer virtual packages to event owners seeking specific types of facilities (pools, basketball courts, tennis courts, equestrian facilities, etc.), and for event owners to view these facilities, could be a new method of marketing, also helping to scale back time spent in sports-related trade shows and at meetings. It also wins points for eco-friendliness (less fossil fuel in travel to narrow down the list of potential destinations.)

Cathy Tull, senior vice president of marketing for the LVCVA, told Travel Weekly that VR marketing of destinations is just another step in the evolutionary process. “I think it’s going to become more and more popular. I think that the potential is really going to continue to expand. I see it honing in on all different pieces of the marketing puzzle.”

“People are doing their research,” Tull added. “This is one more way for them to do their research.”

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