The Drum was transported to Rio de Janeiro earlier this week for a press conference with Olympic legend Sir Steve Redgrave, but not by plane.
We were invited to M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment's office in London and presented with Samsung Gear VR headsets in order to interview Redgrave in real time. The 360 VR made it seem as if we were sat directly in front of the retired athlete at British House in Rio, while he watched us on a screen that broadcast a stream of the room in Soho.
It was the third in a series of VR-led interviews hosted by Samsung as part of its Step Into Rio campaign. last weekend sessions were conducted with rower Helen Glover and cyclist Bradley Wiggins, both of whom also feature in the tech brand’s School of Rio campaign fronted by Jack Whitehall.
The brand has hailed the experiences as the world’s first live VR press conferences, combining live streaming with the immersive aspect of virtual reality (we could turn our heads and look around the room in Rio while carrying on the chat).
The conversational element is a new approach to VR: Samsung stated in a release that ‘all 360 live video streaming to date has been based around the consumption of content, rather than a two-way interaction.’ More members of London’s press will be offered the chance to jump 5,761 miles and talk to Olympic hopefuls throughout the week.
The year of VR
The experience forms just one part of Samsung’s VR push this year. Last week (12 August) saw the brand release a 360 tour of British House on the Oculus Store, Facebook and YouTube, while its large scale Hypercube experience with Biffy Clyro launched at Boardmasters festival in Cornwall last weekend.
Samsung also went to town on pushing its Gear VR headset experiences to the creative industries at Cannes Lions in June, with a pop-up interactive space and a town-wide, colourful OOH campaign.
“This has been the year of VR for us,” James Coyle, senior PR manager at Samsung, told The Drum. “We launched our S7 device at Mobile World Congress with Mark Zuckerberg with the VR headsets on, we’re using it as part of our Olympic campaign here in the UK and across the world, and we’re driving the market.
“We’re trying to find ways of producing content that people want to engage with. I think that’s our challenge; to keep coming up with new, exciting and different ways of using VR content so more people can experience it.”
As for our interview with Sir Steve, we decided to park questions about his relationship with John Inverdale and ask him whether he thinks was right to call Team GB a brand. He said: “To move on as a sport you need to have sponsorship, you need to have advertising and you need to have a brand. The British Olympic Association is a hugely successful organization and Team GB is part of that. As a marketing tool, it’s so important.”