Sensation in Silicon Valley: Facebook changed its name to Meta in October 2021. The company no longer wants to be seen only as the operator of social network Facebook, but also to clarify the company’s course for the coming years. The tech giant wants to build the next stage of the internet, the Metaverse. Meta sees this as a “collective project created by people around the world and open to all.”
But what is this metaverse actually supposed to be? There is no exact definition yet, because it’s still in its initial stages and further development is too unpredictable. But most experts agree on one thing: this evolution of the internet will be a connection of the physical world with a virtual one in which people can interact. “The big goal is that there will be a whole world everyone can participate in. You could go to trade fairs for example, go on holiday or watch movies together with friends – live in a parallel world, so to speak”, says Moritz Scholz, Manager Esports at SPORTFIVE.
The challenges currently lie mainly in the infrastructure. “The difficulty is actually to create the technical capacities so that something like the Metaverse can run smoothly”, says Scholz. For a virtual parallel world that is supposed to replicate the real world as closely as possible, numerous technical basics have to be in place. For example, smooth communication must be ensured in which there is no time lag and in which numerous people can participate synchronously. IT standards and protocols, which need to be much more complex and stable, must be agreed upon in order to be able to process large amounts of data, because the more realistic graphics and communication in the metaverse are to be, the greater the bandwidth of data processing has to be.
Even if the “perfect” metaverse is still some way off, we can already see what it might be like – using Fortnite as an example. Users can meet their friends in the virtual world, interact with each other and even experience concerts, such as those by Travis Scott or Ariana Grande. Fortnite is not just a game, but a place where people can come together and have fun.
How gaming and esports can open the door to the metaverse has been further explained by the American colleagues from Beyond the Match here.
But rights holders and brands can also use the metaverse and its precursors. Roblox, a platform where users can create and share their own games, is another prototype of the Metaverse. Football clubs such as Barcelona and Liverpool have already worked with Roblox: together they developed in-game content so that users could equip their avatars with jerseys and fan scarves. Since people by nature like to collect, the metaverse offers a “business-to-avatar” approach to showcase one’s own interests to others with items in the virtual world.
The metaverse thrives on interaction and participation, so opportunities need to be created for users to collaborate and encourage collective creativity. Rights holders and brands must move away from the idea that a virtual world can “only” be good for gaming – because examples such as Fortnite or Roblox show that these worlds can offer users a platform to discover things, express themselves and establish or maintain social contacts.
Until now, best practices have yet to be established. The metaverse and its predecessors still offer a lot of room for experimentation in terms of marketing. One thing is certain, however: in order to advertise successfully, not only new formats have to be developed that fit seamlessly into this evolution of the internet, but the target group must also be carefully considered. “In the future, it will be increasingly important to engage even more with one’s key user and really determine: Who is actually the person I want to reach? You will no longer be able to reach this target group in the metaverse with just a plain logo, but rather with something that is fun for them and creates added value”, says Moritz Scholz. “As a brand, you only have a few seconds to catch the user with, for example, your own world on Roblox, because the metaverse is dynamic and the amount of content is limitless”, adds Leonie Fabisch, Manager Global Esports at SPORTFIVE, “A good way is to create worlds that are fun and at the same time playfully bring the brand and its products closer to the gamer.”
It can be well worth investing in virtual experiences to activate user engagement with their own virtual worlds and transform a classic advertisement into a new form of entertainment – because it is precisely this huge entertainment character that is the added value for the target group. Netflix, for example, created a virtual world in Roblox that promotes the series “Stranger Things” with mini-games and in-game items, among other things. “This not only raised money for Netflix, but also created awareness for the series. Something like this shows that the streaming platform is very much engaged with its target group and is trying to engage them”, says Scholz.
In the sports business, too, the step into the metaverse and its precursors can be a good idea – especially if you bring partner brands on board. “In interaction with the brands, you can create so much as a club that is fun for the users. That not only pays off positively for your own brand but can perhaps also recruit the fans of tomorrow”, says Moritz Scholz, “I believe that if you place yourself in the field early on and create good experiences for the users and the target group, that that has a very big effect on brand awareness and image in the long term.” Leonie Fabisch also believes that the metaverse can be an excellent opportunity for sports marketing, because “brands can shape this development of the internet from the very beginning and thus use a special momentum. It’s a unique opportunity to showcase and present one’s own products and interact with this young target group in a way only that’s not possible via any other platform in this way.”
As with social media almost 15 years ago, the marketing of rights holders and brands is on the verge of another revolution, and no one can predict what the internet and the metaverse will look like in the future. The important thing is to have the courage to experiment and come up with new ideas – because that’s the only way the sports business will not lose touch with new generations.