Inside ESPN ‘Monday Night Football’ Patriots-Bears augmented reality – USA TODAY

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Before the New England Patriots host the Chicago Bears on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football,” Pat the Patriot has an important task. 

With kickoff moments away, the Gillette Stadium video board will show the team’s mascot walking into the locker room with a switch inside. He’ll flip it from “Gillette” to “Gillette Labs,” igniting an augmented reality experience as part of an advertising campaign for the company to promote the company’s Exfoliating Bar razor. 

The 45-second virtual campaign will be the first of its kind for an NFL broadcast and is an effort between the Patriots, Gillette, and The Famous Group – a virtual event production company. 

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“Tonight’s takeover is just another creative example of how our naming rights partner continues to maintain its lead in the industry by relying on cutting-edge innovation, technology and design,” Kraft Group president Jonathan Kraft said in a statement. “We look forward to providing platforms for many more creative marketing opportunities for years to come.” 

Weeks ago, the Famous Group conducted a laser scan of the stadium, which is currently under renovation. This allowed it to have pinpoint accuracy of the location of existing architecture, and use the mixed reality effects to “make it come to life,” said Famous Group executive vice president for business development Andrew Isaacson. Two cameras with tracking technology make the feat possible. 

The famous lighthouse – also under construction and expected to be finished for next season – shines a light beam on the 50-yard line on the Patriots logo, which turns over for a silver base. Shapes will begin forming the Exfoliating Bar razor. 

“Almost like a Transformer, coming to life at the middle of the field,” Isaacson told USA TODAY Sports. 

Gillette vice president of North America grooming John Claughton said the company wanted to find an outlet to market the razor, released last year, and announce the GilletteLabs rebrand.

“We are very proud of the fact that it is in front of a national audience,” Claughton told USA TODAY Sports. 

There will also be a fireworks display, although fans inside the stadium will see nothing but the cool New England Autumn night, and announcer Joe Buck will welcome viewers to the broadcast on ESPN.

Claughton expects those watching from home will enjoy seeing the renovation’s progression, and he called the augmented reality experience “innovative and pioneering.” 

“This is all about the GilletteLabs brand being announced to NFL fans,” Claughton said. “I think Gillette is synonymous with the stadium and the New England Patriots.” 

This is also the first time a retail product has been brought to life, Isaacson said. The Famous Group did an activation for Chipotle by pushing a burrito onto the ice with Zamboni during a hockey game. But the company’s signature virtual reality hit was in conjunction with the Carolina Panthers; mascot “Sir Purr” came to life and pounced around the stadium.

The video that went on social media earned one million impressions by halftime of that Sept. 12, 2021, game, Isaacson said. The tech is also made for broadcast. Those factors made it easy for the Patriots to pioneer this kind of marketing in the NFL. 

“The broadcast audience gets the chance to feel like they’re seeing something as well,” Isaacson said, “not to mention the social media impact that this has afterward.

“It really spins the media wheel really well.” 

Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.