By Barry Janoff
October 24, 2014: Game 3 of the World Series will be played tonight (Oct. 24) in AT&T Park between the host San Francisco Giants and the visiting Kansas City Royals.
Some 30 miles down the road, the University of California-Berkeley will be hosting Pac-12 rival Oregon in the first college football game to be played in Levi's Stadium, the new $1.2 billion home of the NFL's San Francisco 49ers.
To keep things even more interesting than they will be, both Cal and Oregon have partnered with IMG College and Intel Corp., which is an official partner with Levi's Stadium, to produce exclusive Pocket Avatars, a messaging application that offers consumers a "unique and fun way to communicate via animated avatars."
The branded avatars, available in Intel’s Pocket Avatar app, will enable fans of the Golden Bears to send personalized messages in their own voice to one another or to fans of the rival Ducks, and vise versa. A free app is available for both iOS and Android.
Cal fans can select “Golden” from the Pocket Avatars app; Duck Fans will be able to select “Speedy." (Listen to a sample Speedy message here.)
There is an Intel Plaza at Levi’s Stadium, and the company said they would be showcasing the Pocket Avatars and instant message application on site.
According to Intel and IMG College, which is the college sports marketing division of global sports marketing and representation firm IMG, fans can use the characters to record a personalized, 3-D video message — in their own voice! — mirroring the users’ facial gestures. Fans can then send the message to friends, family and hated rivals via text, email, social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, or the Pocket Avatars app itself.
For those fans who might want to trash-talk the opposing side with expletive-deleted or messages with racial or other offensive slurs, IMG College and Intel said the app will not be user-friendly.
According to Giangola, Intel grants users "quite a lot of control with regard to whom they message. Should a user wish to stop seeing content or messages from another user, they provide controls to either block or delete contacts from their Pocket Avatars friend list." (Details here.)
Cal and Oregon currently are the only two universities licensed with Pocket Avatars. But that could expand, especially considering that IMG College represents more than 200 universities. Intel said there are more than 60 avatars in the Pocket Avatars app and that new characters are introduced on a regular basis.
Sales of college-related merchandise is a $4.6 billion category, according to IMG College.
"The plan is to see how this pilot performs and then evaluate," said Giangola. "There is no doubt that this is a cutting-edge digital product, Intel is a great company, and this has a chance to drive royalties to schools while providing something really cool to fans. These college-branded avatars are a great example of using digital technology to enhance and build fan engagement . . . particularly in getting millennials connected to a team."