As the U.S. waits for the great reopening of its hallowed national pastimes in an era of pandemic-enforced social distancing, sports teams are increasingly turning to a new wave of digital tools like social media and video games to connect with a new generation of fans.
The Los Angeles Rams are the latest team to embrace the trend, choosing to work with social media giant Snap and EA Sports' Madden NFL franchise to unveil the new design of their uniforms ahead of the opening of the most high-tech stadium in the National Football League later this year.
The revelation of the uniform in augmented reality, a decision brought about by social distancing measures put in place in California, is a first for any NFL team. The Rams franchise also collaborated with the Madden franchise to provide a sneak peak of the uniform through in-game renders of Rams players showing off the new look.
On Instagram, social media users can see interactive content of the uniforms in their new natural habitat before the stadium opens.
"We had been chatting about how to use AR for a while. Just across the board," said Lexi Vonderlieth, the head of partnership marketing. "We were trying to figure out ways to bring the uniform to life and showcase that a bit and create something that was a bit engaging."
From the world lens through Snap, viewers can see Jared Goff or Aaron Donald in their apartments, living rooms or backyards. Through the selfie view Snap users can put on the new jersey and Rams helmet.
The Los Angeles-based Snap has had a longtime relationship with the Rams -- in part through proximity and in part through connections in the Los Angeles business world.
The unveiling of the uniforms, which happened earlier today, marked the first time that Snap had worked with a franchise directly instead of with the National Football League broadly.
Earlier uses of the Snap filters and camera this season came during the NFL draft itself -- where Snap rolled out special cams as a way for fans to celebrate and represent their own teams.
The National Football League actually plays a prominent roll in the history of Snap lenses. The famous "Gatorade dump" tradition where the coach from the winning team in the Super Bowl gets doused with Gatorade by his players was one of the first lenses that Snap developed.
"We saw this incredible connection in how AR could engage," said Snap senior director of global creative strategy, Jeff Miller. "Snap is a platform that is built for connecting with close friends and family. Sports passion is expressed through those kinds of connections."
Snap, in some senses, is uniquely positioned to amplify the fan experience in a socially distanced sporting world. "[The technology] gives us an ability to create amazing experiences that can replace a physical activation, enhance it or give alternatives in a sport-from-home environment."