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Leinster Rugby and BearingPoint have unveiled a shared ambition to provide immersive metaverse experiences for fans around the world. An event hosted by BearingPoint in four locations across Europe gave examples of how fan engagement may alter with the advent of new digital environments.

As vast sums of investment continue to make their way to the metaverse, elite sport is looking to bolster post-pandemic revenues by exploring the digital opportunities. In early May 2022, for example, Serie A attempted to use the technology to appeal to football fans in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region, giving them the opportunity to enjoy a world first when Milan’s league game against Fiorentina was broadcast in this virtual world.

In the world of rugby, another metaverse milestone is currently taking place. Leinster Rugby has showcased the capabilities of its own metaverse presence, in an event hosted by innovation partner BearingPoint. At the multi-location demonstration, business partners, media and sporting stars were able to attend via virtual reality technology in four locations across Europe. These included BearingPoint offices in Dublin, London, and Paris as well as the Leinster Rugby Club facilities in University College Dublin.

BearingPoint supports Leinster Rugby metaverse entry

Kevin Quinn, Head of Commercial and Marketing at Leinster Rugby who attended the event said, “At Leinster Rugby, we’re always striving to improve, to nurture and drive the pursuit of excellence in everything we do both on and off the pitch. This exciting initiative is a significant and strategic business and brand building opportunity for us at Leinster Rugby… We have a passionate, engaged and growing supporter base and we’re excited to work with our innovation partner, BearingPoint, to explore new ways to improve how we communicate and engage with them.”

Entering the metaverse with BearingPoint’s support is seen as a big opportunity to do just that. Leinster intends to “broaden its horizons” via the technology, identifying new digital commercial opportunities in the process, as it develop immersive rugby experiences to reach fans far and wide, and give them a chance to follow and interact with the club in ways only fans in physical attendance might have previously.

Showcasing how this convergence between the physical and digital worlds might work, guests at the event entered the metaverse, before taking a journey from the BearingPoint offices in Paris to end up ‘pitch side’ for a presentation in a VR built Aviva Stadium, developed by the BearingPoint team. BearingPoint is planning to play a central role in leveraging its VR expertise to enable Leinster Rugby to further engage its fans through immersive experiences and to explore the wider commercial possibilities and potential this technology has in the sporting world.

Speaking at the launch, Jonathan Stephens, Innovation Lead at BearingPoint UK said, “The Metaverse can break down barriers between brands and their customers. The opportunity for sports franchises in particular is obvious… and using this exciting technology allows teams to start to create new experiences that immerse and engage fans regardless of their location. It’s not only physical distance, but the technology can also enable brands to tailor more inclusive experiences for fans with particular accessibility requirements too.”

What is the metaverse?

A metaverse is a network of 3D virtual worlds focused on social connection. For years, a term mainly connected with science fiction, it has long been imagined as a hypothetical iteration of the Internet – with the global network finally manifesting a single, universal virtual world. However, the idea has taken on particular prominence recently, thanks to Facebook’s rebranding as Meta – a Metaverse company.

As the world’s social media and digital companies reach the point where there is little further room to expand their followership, they are turning to the concept of the metaverse as a magic bullet, where they can find new ways to profit from the provision of social digital infrastructure. With large companies already throwing even larger amounts of money at the project, the metaverse is increasingly becoming viewed as a watershed opportunity in the privatisation of social interaction.

Additionally to traditional revenue opportunities, for example, the deployment of mechanisms such as blockchain and NFTs, can see users compelled to spend money – and give out data – to buy into interactive spaces such as the Sandbox metaverse, where their interactions are recorded as ‘transactions’ in a permanent, and publicly available ledger. Whatever the security and privacy concerns this has stoked up, many businesses view this as a major opportunity to open up new revenue streams.