Mantis XR brings St. Louis Blues fans to the metaverse
The Vancouver-based company has partnered with the NHL team on what it says is a first-of-its-kind shopping experience for a sports franchise.
The St. Louis Blues took to the ice in their white road uniform yesterday evening, up one game to none in their Western Conference First Round series against the Minnesota Wild. The Blues lost Game 2—a knock against the old adage of “look good, feel good, play good”—but the jersey will doubtless still prove popular as it joins one of many merch items available for fans to purchase in extended reality through an activation launched May 5.
Metaverse marketplace: The Blues teamed with retail partner Rank + Rally, innovation-in-hospitality company DBK Studio, and Mantis XR—a Vancouver company specializing in metaverse-based e-commerce experiences—to introduce Blues Experiential Reality (BXR). According to the team, it’s the first metaverse shopping experience in sports and entertainment in North America.
Using extended reality, fans enter a 3D, photorealistic locker room. Once inside, they can browse a selection of Blues merchandise that is available for purchase. BXR is available through a web link or by scanning QR codes located in the Enterprise Center, the Blues’ home arena. Perfect timing: the team is set to host the Wild for Games 3 and 4 on May 6 and 8.
The activation is currently an extended reality team store with t-shirts and jerseys available for purchase. In the future, though, the partnership is teasing new merchandise options in addition to exclusive content, Easter eggs, and unique experiences. Plus, Blues players may even make an appearance.
“The social aspect is one of the most unique as well,” Kahlil Ashanti, founder and CEO of Mantis XR, told Vancouver Tech Journal in an email. “Players can stream from inside the experience from their chosen device to 'drop in' on the shoppers.”
Best teammates since Gretzky and Hull: MantisXR’s relationship with the Blues stems from the Stadia Ventures accelerator. The program is “Y Combinator for sports startups,” Ashanti quips. Through this program, the company also met the Blues’ vice president of innovation and digital strategy, Matt Gardner, to embark on this paid pilot project.
“We are excited to launch our virtual locker room and bring fans a unique shopping journey using experiential reality,” Gardner said in a statement. “As we all prepare for a future world driven by metaverse-style experiences, it’s great to have innovators like Mantis XR, Rank+Rally, and DBK Studio to partner with us in establishing a foundation in this space.”
Why it matters: Most arenas have entered something resembling a post-pandemic world, with full capacity crowds becoming the (new) norm. Still, fans increasingly clamour for new ways to feel a connection with their favourite teams. Local innovators are rising to the challenge with companies like Mantis XR or Imagine AR at the forefront. Vancouver is well-positioned to support this thirst, evidenced by its rich history and budding future.
“Rank + Rally and the St. Louis Blues understand that you have to meet fans where they are,” Ashanti said in a release. “Our team at Mantis XR has really enjoyed working with them to deliver Blues Experiential Retail, a first-of-its-kind, dynamic, social-commerce driven 3D metaverse experience without the need for downloads, wearables, or 360 cameras. This is just the first phase of our partnership, and we have more in store.”
The fabric of the game: The St Louis Blues have compiled a vast uniform history since entering the NHL when the league doubled in size ahead of the 1967/68 season. The team is only rivalled in this by, perhaps, the Vancouver Canucks, whose wild collection of jerseys and logos is winding if not jarring. It seems only a matter of time until you’re in the metaverse equivalent of the Canucks locker room, debating between the skate logo or orca logo jersey (if it were up to me, there would be no debate). My hunch is it would be all thanks to Mantis XR’s tech.
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