When the University of Florida wanted to do something spectacular to kick off a basketball game against their SEC rival Kentucky Wildcats, they knew it would have to be BIG. Well, it just so happened that ON Services had been pitching ideas to the university athletics marketing team. When they finally got the green light from the administration, their first call was to us.
Before the team stormed the court for the February game, the UF Athletic Association debuted a one-of-a-kind pregame on-court projection show that brought the crowd to their feet and left fans busily chattering about it on social media.
The 3-D video brought animated gators to life, fire sizzled across the court and championship banners unfurled from sideline to sideline. The project marks one of the first applications of lifelike “organic” animation using 3-D projection mapping technology. In fact, after researching our idea and reaching out to several top animation providers for guidance, we were told they’d never seen it done and it would not be easy. Challenge accepted!
Our team worked diligently to adapt existing court projection techniques to accommodate organic characters and bring the gators to life. After about two months of development, and some trial and error, we finally came up with a solution that worked.
“The collaboration between the ON Services team and the University was vital to executing this experience without a hitch,” said Lee Torregrossa, the lead relationship manager and Director of New Business Development at ON Services.
“We knew the crowd reaction would be good, but it was better than we ever imagined,” said Alicia Longworth, Florida’s assistant athletic director for marketing and promotions. “It was so loud in there.”
The court projection video lasted just 65 seconds prior to player introductions, but the energy inside the arena never dissipated in the Gators’ punishing 88-66 win over their SEC rival.
“This is going to be the next big thing,” she said. “10 to 15 years ago, sports arenas were just starting to use video boards. Well, 15 years from now, everybody’s going to have these projections.”
In the week leading up to the game, several other campus and athletic events occupied the arena, compressing the amount of time we had to install the projectors (four primary and four backups) and prepare the final video. It wasn’t until the day before the Kentucky game that we were able to project the video onto the court for the first time.
Within 24 hours following the game, the client had heard from a half-dozen of her peers at other universities. By the next day, she had taken nearly 20 calls from other collegiate marketers.
Florida’s social media team, meanwhile, flooded its social channels with video of the court projection. Less than 48 hours after the game, the video already had 600,000 views on Facebook and 1,500 retweets on Twitter.
“We’re all trying to provide a unique setting for our teams, our fans and our students,” Longworth said. “Especially with the element of surprise… nobody knew it was coming.”
"One of our main goals as a marketing team is to make the fan experience the best it can be," she said. "We hope in the future that will include more court projections or whatever the next innovative idea may be."
We couldn’t agree more. And we’ll be leading that charge!