Every four years, the FIFA World Cup unites millions of people around a common interest in football and a fierce dedication to their country. But how can you spark even more interest in one of the most popular sports on the planet? For Adidas and software company Blue Bite, the solution is to innovate the fan experience. Specifically, the duo injected the official World Cup match ball with a bit of cutting edge technology (see: NFC) capable of allowing fans to unlock exclusive tournament-themed content.
While Adidas supplied the balls, Blue Bite created the software embedded in the NFC chip (made by tech company Smartrac). By activating a special ID via a smartphone, fans can unlock exclusive information about the World Cup and even the ball itself. Don’t think of it as just an experiment, either. Blue Bite designed the software to allow fans to review and unlock new content every week.
“The idea behind the ball is to engage fans and get them excited about the World Cup before it starts,” Rachel Furst, director of product marketing at Blue Bite, told Digital Trends. “So before the tournament, fans will have access to a variety of different challenges – challenges designed to bring them back each week. Some unlock exclusive videos of World Cup players using the ball or showing their own goal celebration, while others require users to post specific photos with the ball itself.
Similar to how Nike has taken advantage of NFC technology in its NikeConnect jersey line, the Adidas World Cup ball is intended for consumers only, that is, it will have no impact on the matches themselves. Despite this, the chip’s integration is so subtle that anyone who uses it (or uses it in a match) won’t notice the difference. The shape hasn’t been altered, its physique remains the same, and it’s not heavier – even if you know where to look for the chip, you won’t see it.
“The chip is extremely light and will not affect the weight or performance of the bullet,” Furst added. “In addition, we had to make sure that all parts were functional in case the ball got wet and we also took into account fluctuations in temperature or movement, to ensure that the internal components were not damaged. “
Fans of the World Cup also don’t need to be in Russia to access Adidas’ NFC-compatible ball, as it is currently available through the Adidas website for $ 124. Host nation Russia will kick off the world tournament on June 14 as they face Saudi Arabia.