It's been more than a year since basketball games at the Audi Dome, home of FC Bayern Munich, have enjoyed the warm atmosphere of the fans in the stands.
To keep the team's supporters as close to the game as possible, however, Bayern has found a solution in the virtual Audi Dome, an elaborate digital innovation that amounts to the first virtual sports venue in Europe.
In recent weeks, Bayern has opened the virtual Audi Dome to fans for a few select games, the next of which is Game 3 of the team's Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Playoffs battle with AX Armani Exchange Milan on Wednesday. It marks the first EuroLeague Playoffs game ever hosted by a German team.
The goal behind the virtual Audi Dome is to recreate as closely as possible a real arena atmosphere for fans no matter where they connecting from. The virtual venue offers many attractions that can also be found in the Audi Dome itself, but enhanced by extra features for interaction that can only happen in the digital domain.
The original idea was conceived by Jacaranda Sports, a partner of Bayern's main sponsor, Audi, and was developed over time until it could become a reality. The virtual Audi Dome first opened its doors last February 25 for a EuroLeague home game against Maccabi Playtika Tel Aviv.
"We had around 3,000 visitors in the virtual Audi Dome. That's half the capacity of the real Audi Dome. This is a huge success for the very first time." Marko Pesic, CEO of FC Bayern Basketball, said.
The visitors settled in to enjoy the experience, including the main highlight: a live pre-game show hosted by Germany's sports presenter Alex Schlueter and featuring former Bayern team captain Steffen Hamann.
Amenities offered at the virtual Audi Dome include interactive virtual shooting at the basketball court; a tour of the club's official store, where visitors get special discounts; live chats including insights and analysis of the game by experts; betting games; photo campaigns involving the fans attending the game, and more.
"It's primarily about making the home game atmosphere tangible even in times of COVID-19," Hubert Link, Marketing Director of Audi Germany, said. "Live sports can still be seen through the media partners during the pandemic. What is missing, despite countless camera positions and good live moderation, is this special stadium atmosphere and the fans' feeling of sharing victory and defeat with others. We're trying to replicate all of this with the concept of the virtual Audi Dome."
In an unpleasant situation that had fans physically detached from what they love the most, Bayern and its partner, Audi, have thought of the ultimate way to take the full basketball experience – arena included – into the homes of those fans.
That will allow Bayern fans everywhere to enjoy the unmatched atmosphere of the EuroLeague Playoffs for the first time on Wednesday – even if it's from their living rooms.