The Washington Capitals are using augmented reality to wow fans.
The Washington Capitals and their fans are congratulating their captain Alex Ovechkin. Why? The NHL (National Hockey League) professional and Russian national ice hockey player scored his 21st and 22nd goals of the season in a game against the Winnipeg Jets on 23 December last year. This puts “Ovi”, with his 802 goals, in second place on the all-time NHL scoreboard. Only Canadian Wayne Gretzky has scored more goals. Gretzky tops the list of the best ice hockey players with 894 goals.
To celebrate Ovi becoming the No. 2 goalscorer of all time, the “Caps” have developed an AR platform for their 930,000 Instagram followers. The concept is simple: fans use their mobile phone’s camera to record a virtual 3D illustration of a celebrating Ovi skating a few laps of their desk or car roof. The footage can then be shared on users’ Instagram channels. The distribution of the app is not only limited to followers of the Caps; fans can visit a dedicated internet landing page directing them to the app.
The Capitals already have experience of fan engagement in this field. In 2019, they brought out their own limited edition Ovi O cereal. The cereal box contained a link to an AR game – Ovi O’s Slapshot. Fans then used Snapchat to control an Ovi avatar shooting cereal at moving targets.
Baltimore-based, full-service augmented and virtual reality studio Balti Virtual is behind the idea and implementation of both experiences. It will be fascinating to see what campaign the Caps come up with if Ovi actually manages to take the top spot from Gretzky. The Canadian ended his career in 1999, while Ovechkin, based on his current performance, may still have a few NHL seasons ahead of him despite being 37 years old.