When the National Football League kicks off its season on Thursday, football fans will have a new virtual way to interact with their favorite players during the game.
On Tuesday, the NFL, Twitter and Bud Light said that players will see tweets and videos from their fans displayed on a screen in the end zone during a game's big moments such as a touchdown, allowing the athletes to react to the online chatter through a camera. Called the "Bud Light Showtime cam," the three companies say it will allow players to showcase their personalities and connect with their fans in real-time. Twitter users who tweet about the games using #ShowtimeCam and #BudLightSweepstakes could get their tweets featured and seen by the players.
"Fun, fiery and spicy tweets perform really well on Twitter so we'll work in tandem with Bud Light and of course the NFL to showcase the tweets that will get the players excited but the tweets that will also generate the most emotion," TJ Adeshola, who heads US sports partnership at Twitter, said in an interview.
The outbreak of the novel coronavirus has prompted sport leagues to turn to virtual fan experiences to fill empty backdrops normally packed with thousands of people. The NBA, for example, teamed up with Microsoft to display videos of fans who use the tech company's Teams app on giant screens throughout the game court. Twitter has also partnered with multiple sports leagues, including the NFL, in the past to live stream sports games on their platform. Last year, the social media site started with a camera that tracked a single player during the second half of games.
Ian Trombetta, senior vice president of social & influence marketing at the NFL, said that when a touchdown or turnover happens during a game this season, the player will run toward a screen known as the "celebration mirror" that will be placed at each end zone. That's when the players will be able to see the chatter from fans and react to them before getting back to the game.
Fans may catch their videos being shared on the television, Twitter or online via NFL.com. At least eight fan videos will be shown on the camera while it's recording on the field, Twitter said.
Trombetta said the league has been looking for virtual ways for fans to engage with football players before the coronavirus outbreak but the pandemic made it clear they "were going to have to really accelerate some of those discussions."
"We're gonna have two-way interaction with the players off of turnovers and touchdown so we're really excited about that interaction together with players particularly in this family environment," he said.