Browser-based environment lets fans experience the ballpark in a new way
The Atlanta Braves are coming off a winning World Series season in 2021 and, to up the ante, the defending champions are entering a world no other professional sports team has entered before. In partnership with Epic Games’ Unreal Engine and Surreal Events, the Braves developed Digital Truist Park, a browser-based replica of the actual site, giving fans the ability to interact with each other, purchase merchandise, and more.
“It’s a labor of love that we’ve been working on for a long time,” says Greg Mize, Senior Director, Marketing and Innovation, Atlanta Braves. “We are delighted and honored to contribute to the realization of this project.”
Digital construction: activation is treated as a traditional location construction
Like many decisions made over the past two years, the Braves’ push into the metaverse has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Without fans flocking to Truist Park and the surrounding Atlanta Battery for an entire season, the franchise looked for a way to generate additional revenue. Outside of sports, other efforts that rely on in-person presence, such as musical artists and entertainment, have shifted to virtual performances. The one that stood out for Mize and his team was the convergence of two leading brands: Travis Scott and Fortnite. This digital-only event attracted a all-time high of 12.3 concurrent viewers.
Mize and Atlanta Braves SVP, Marketing and Content, Adam Zimmerman given the unlimited potential of the concept. To identify the benefits and the full list of possibilities, the duo contacted John Buzzell, Director of Unreal Engine Enterprise, Americas, epic games. After considering the options and seeing how events in a virtual space would resonate with sports fans, the team tapped Surreal events – the company involved in the Travis Scott concert on Fortnite and located 21 miles north of Atlanta – and its co-founder/CEO John Rush to control the central aspect of the virtual platform. With all parties on board by May 2020, the foundations for what would become Digital Truist Park have been laid.
“We knew it could not only be used as a great fan engagement tool [for long-time Braves fans] and new baseball fans, but it could be a great income opportunity,” says Mize, noting that “operating in these virtual worlds comes naturally to the younger generation.”
Unlike online platforms like Fortnite and Roblox, Digital Truist Park is a mirror-to-mirror rendering of the physical environment of Cobb County, Georgia. The aesthetic and conceptual execution of the digital site was carried out by Atlanta Braves Senior Creative Director Insung Kim.
Sponsorship reflects on-site branding, and if that changes, the digital model can be updated fairly quickly. If there is a substantial change that needs to reflect the architectural integrity of the physical building, the fix may take two days.
To bring authenticity and precision to this new venture, the Braves have approached digital construction with the same commitment they had in 2014 when they opened physical Truist Park. The process relied on digital and tangible plans and guidance from Kim, who had been a senior graphic designer at Populous, the venue’s original design company.
“We are positioning Digital Truist Park as a place in its own right,” says Mize. “We are working with our gaming-entertainment team to see what we can do in this environment and our corporate partnerships team to figure out how we can sell sponsorships. It started as a small group but has now expanded to all areas of the organization »
Destination Go-To: Events to include concerts, meet and greets, chances to win prizes
Because activation is distributed through a web browser, it is not limited to the limitations of the current version of Digital Truist Park. The virtual location features many of the features of the actual location – the Braves Clubhouse store, Monument Garden, other locations within The Battery Atlanta – but there will also be opportunities exclusive to the Metaverse. These will not only include musical performances, but also chances to meet active players on the roster, play games and win prizes alongside Braves fans around the world, and find Easter eggs. unique.
Users will have the ability to create and fully customize their avatar online. Another digital exclusive in the current model is the ability to fly virtual US Navy Blue Angel jets over the site with the click of a button.
“The biggest opportunity and the biggest challenge is that anything is possible,” adds Mize. “We talked about having a secret door that leads you underground to a skateboard ramp.”
With the Braves’ victory over the Houston Astros in the 2021 World Series, the organization has even more momentum to enter this new space. In addition to the treasure trove of opportunities offered by Digital Truist Park, users can access interactive exhibits to learn about the Braves’ history and celebrate the team’s recent title run. Fans interested in participating can sign up for additional information on the team’s website, but a select few who receive an invite will be the first to see the initial launch.
Mize is considering further expansion of Digital Truist Park and its team. “Once we get out of the gate, it’s not far-fetched that we add more staff who specifically look after this place. They would be dedicated to curating, scheduling, and executing these virtual events.
Setting the standard: Braves are working towards a new era of fan engagement
When Truist Park opened in 2017, the Braves were one of the first professional ball clubs to have a Braves-centric entertainment district to make game attendance an all-day affair. Now, die-hard supporters and new fans alike can enjoy game day festivities from the comfort of their homes.
“We’re very proud of our efforts,” says Mize, “but we also know the work has only just begun. We don’t know where it’s going to go, but we know it’s going somewhere.