Haka all around: AIG’s VR app lets fans get all up in the All Blacks’ faces—UPDATED

There’s been plenty of talk about the haka in recent days, as there always is when the All Blacks head to Europe. And there’s been plenty of brand activity involving virtual reality recently too, with everyone from Kellogg’s to Contiki getting in on the action. Now AIG, the major jersey-hogging sponsors of the All Blacks, have combined both of those things for the Haka 360˚ Experience.

The Haka 360˚ Experience might sound like a tourist activity in Rotorua, but it is in fact another example of a brand putting Google Cardboard to good use to turn smartphones into VR headsets. And if your phone doesn’t fit, it doesn’t really matter as you can still watch the video, turn your phone any way you like and get a 360 degree view of proceedings (and if you’re really keen, you can order your own headset via g.co/cardboard). It’s pretty cool footage, and it’s along similar lines to Google’s multi-GoPro video rig, Jump, so if you ever wanted to know what it feels like to be a camera man in front of the All Blacks as they perform their famous pre-game ritual, now you have the chance. 

To get involved, users can head to aig.com/haka360, download the app via the App Store or Google Play. It’s also coming to the Gear VR Share Store soon. And for the paper-lovers, AIG even produced an old-school flip book showing the haka in action as part of its campaign PR. 

There has been a fair bit of discussion about the inappropriate use of the haka in the past, whether it’s the ad for Fiat that featured women or Matt Dawson’s pretty terrible ‘hakarena‘ that Pita Sharples says was shameful and insulting, so using the haka for commercial gain is treading a fairly fine line. Of course, it is a major drawcard for fans and a major part of the All Black’s aura, so it’s not surprising that it is appealing to the sponsors. Adidas embraced it in 2007 and AIG has already used it when the All Blacks played in Chicago but it’s thought the company worked closely with the Ngati Toa and New Zealand Rugby has given its blessing, with chief executive Steve Tew saying the innovation brings fans closer to the team. AIG also involved members of the Maori community at the launch event and created content that appears on the website and on the app that explores the historical significance of the haka.

“The haka is part of the fabric of the team and of New Zealand,” says AIG spokesperson Shannon Morrison. “The intention of the Haka 360 is to allow fans to experience the power of the haka in a completely new and exciting way, as well as educating viewers about the meaning and significance behind the challenge. We have worked in consultation with New Zealand Rugby to ensure that this was done with respect and sensitivity and we’ve previously worked with Ngati Toa on our “History of the Haka” video which forms the bonus content for the app. We met with a representative prior to launch and another representative from the iwi attended the launch event. They’re pleased with the way that we’re portraying their culture on the global stage.”

No word on who produced the campaign in the release, but it looks like it’s got Augusto’s fingerprints all over it. 

“As you would expect for such a technical piece of work, the app was the result of a collaboration across multiple parties,” says Morrison. “There were many different elements including filming the haka, stitching the video together to create the 360 degree environment, creation of the website and the app, and so on.” 

While AIG isn’t a sponsor of the Rugby World Cup, it does have a presence in London at the AIG Touchline on the South Bank during September and October where visitors will be able to face the Haka 360˚ Experience (if only AIG had bought the giant rugby ball). 

“The reaction to the launch has been overwhelmingly positive and we’re very happy with both the quantity and the sentiment of the TV, radio, print, digital and social coverage we’ve received in New Zealand and around the world. We don’t have official download statistics yet but have seen that it has ranked highly amongst sports apps in a number of countries, including New Zealand, Ireland, Argentina, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Africa, Sri Lanka and many others.” 

The footage of the haka was filmed in Christchurch when the All Blacks played Argentina. And AIG has also created a video featuring four All Blacks talking about the rebuilding efforts in the city following the earthquakes—and how AIG’s expertise helped. 

And while it might seem like a long bow to draw, AIG is also promoting the insurance industry’s incorporation of VR into their “health and financial protection service offerings, most often through simulated road safety, workplace hazard, and disaster preparedness training”.

“VR-enabled drones are further prospects for quick deployment, expediting steps to claims fulfillment. VR can additionally function as a therapeutic wellness aid, facilitating physical and mental recovery. While it remains early days for insurers to fully engage VR as standard practice, viewing publicly available footage displayed on VR headset quickly showcases the new pathways to possibility opened by these frontier technologies.” 

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