Virginia Commonwealth University
When the USA’s National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) started the 2020-2021 basketball season, it was unclear what experience it would be able to offer fans. Attendance restrictions have been in place for most of the season and team schedules have changed frequently due to Covid-19 restrictions and team availability.
However, corporate sponsors at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), which is well known for its leading basketball programme, wanted to ensure that they could provide an immersive live fan experience for their customers and employees. This challenging task fell to Robby Robinson, general manager of VCU Sports Properties, who is responsible for aligning corporate brands with the VCU fan base and providing the play-by-play announcements for VCU men’s basketball on the radio and internet.
To achieve this goal, Robinson and his team devised the VCU Basketball Live MegaCast concept. This involved creating an exclusive behind-the-scenes experience that would allow corporate sponsor guests and employees to watch the game virtually, while simultaneously interacting with VCU basketball experts, sports commentators and former players via video conferencing and instant messages.
To find easy-to-use technology that would facilitate and support this real-time fan experience, VCU Sports Properties sought the help of Microsoft Gold Partner Synergy Technical. Together, the two companies hosted the first-ever VCU Basketball Live MegaCast event using Microsoft Teams on 3 February 2021.
Sharing video of the game, local sports broadcasters provided a real-time, play-by-play commentary for event participants. Meanwhile, fans used video and chat to interact in real time with former VCU players, who provided insights into the player experience on the court. The event was integrated with Robinson’s live radio show, giving MegaCast fans the experience of participating in the show as he called the game for listeners.
“No other technology besides Microsoft Teams would have allowed fans such an immersive virtual experience,” says Rohana Meade, president and CEO of Synergy Technical. “Giving our employees and customers the ability to both watch the game and interact with VCU’s panel of experts was amazing. All of our fans absolutely loved it; they felt like they were part of an exclusive experience. This basketball season has been like no other, but we knew that using Microsoft Teams, VCU would be able to extend the excitement of VCU basketball into our homes.”
Robinson adds: “We knew that providing an in-person fan experience would be challenging this season. We’re delighted to have found a way to give our corporate sponsors a different, but still immersive fan experience.”
This article was originally published in the Spring 2021 issue of The Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.
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