A new attraction at the BVB FanWelt and SIGNAL IDUNA PARK in Dortmund blends interaction, mixed reality, and gamification into a globally unique sporting brand experience.
Professional sports are no longer only about on-field performance; Brand experience, identification with the club, fan engagement, gamification, and social media visibility have become crucial components of club operations. As a result, sports clubs are increasingly focusing on enhancing fan experiences and creating innovative attractions.
Since mid-August, Bundesliga club Borussia Dortmund has taken the lead in this sector, offering a pioneering immersive experience; The „BVB Experience“ allows visitors to journey through nine playfully designed interactive stations that trace the progression from youth player to BVB professional. It provides fans with an unprecedented deep dive into Borussia Dortmund and strengthens their public image.
The team at iXtenda GmbH specialise in technical creations have been developing solutions at the intersection of physical and digital experiences for years. Their interactive designs and unique media installations craft spectacular brand experiences.
iXtenda was responsible for the BVB Experience from initial concept and planning to construction, development, technical supervision, and installation.
BVB Experience Stations
The BVB Experience begins in FanWelt – a fan shop next to BVB’s stadium, where participants purchase tickets and receive an RFID wristband. During check-in, they provide their name and email, and select their desired language (German / English). The RFID wristband acts as a personal key to the exhibits, along with tracking their actions, accumulated points, times, photos, and videos, and making all the generated data easily accessible at the end.
Each station begins with media stands equipped with touch displays and RFID readers. The main experience starts with the Dribbling station. After registering with the RFID wristband, participants are greeted by a digital coach. The objective: to navigate a changing dribbling course of LED columns as quickly and accurately as possible. These columns, made from various materials including 3D printed parts, were designed to be sturdy at the base but flexible, vibration-damped at the ground and transitioning to LED lighting. Balls are dispensed and returned by an automated machine, and built-in sensors measure the time and accuracy of the participants dribbling. Based on performance, participants receive feedback from the coach and are then directed to the next station, the Sprint Duel.
The Sprint Duel, located on FanWelts first floor, features a 12-meter long, highresolution LED wall where participants can race against BVB professionals on artificial turf with dynamic LED ground lighting and professional timekeeping technology. Participants choose an opponent from the current BVB squad, such as Nico Schlotterbeck, Youssoufa Moukoko, or Felix Nmecha, who then sprint alongside them in real-life-size on the LED screen. Their race time is displayed on the LED wall and stored under their RFID tag.
Upon completing the tests, the talent is signed by Borussia Dortmund. The signing ceremony is a first-person experience held in the Foyer West. Sporting Director Sebastian Kehl welcomes new recruits via a media installation. Integrated into this media stand is a 65-inch flat-screen TV, speakers, a camera, and a tablet for signatures. Kehl presents the contract and prompts the participant to sign. The iconic photo taken after contract signings is then captured. This moment is achieved without the use of green screens as AI technology removes the real background to provide an authentic “Signing Day” photo.
What would a player be without their own autograph card, specifically, their Topps card? This photo is taken at the signing station too. Participants position themselves and their portrait is taken then printed on their individual autograph card.
Immediately afterwards, a reporter’s voice announces breaking news and officially announces the new signing. The Sky Deadline Day TV studio appears on an LED screen positioned behind the participant. Reporters present from the training ground andannounce the new signing and their exclusively available photograph, as the previously taken contract signing portrait is faded in on the screen.
As a surprise, a WhatsApp message appears immediately afterwards on another display behind the participant. The participant is added to the Borussia Dortmund WhatsApp group, where Mats Hummels, Marco Reus and other players greet him with emojis, text and voice messages.
Participants then proceed to one of the stadium’s most sacred places: the locker room. VR glasses transport participants into the world of team preparations, showcasing matchday rituals and personal interactions with players like Sebastien Haller, Julian Brandt, and Marco Reus.
After this VR experience, participants journey through the iconic team tunnel to the coaches‘ bench for another VR segment. They witness a part of the match day from the coaches‘ perspective and are prepped by Patrick Owomoyela. The outcome of the match is revealed at the next station.
Post-match, the participant will return through the players‘ tunnel to the Mixed Zone for a TV interview which is recorded and later sent via email and QR code. All participant data is stored centrally and linked to their RFID wristband.
The BVB Experience would not be complete if the participant did not get to be part of the team photo. Back in the FanWelt, they position themselves in front of a media column facing the camera, after which they are automatically integrated into a team picture. Here too, AI plays a role in the extraction as well as size and position adjustment. The result is an authentic looking photo of the fan with their team. Immediately afterward, a QR code is generated on the display, which the participant can scan to get direct access to all generated media.
To complete the BVB Experience, the participant must check out. This is done by returning the RFID wristband. Immediately after checking out, the participant is sent a personalised message to their stored e-mail address. This e-mail contains their autograph card, including signature, their recorded times from the Dribbling and Sprint Duel stations, their photo with Sebastian Kehl, their interview from the mixed zone as a video, their team photo, and their Topps card. The data will be stored for 30 days and then automatically deleted.
Monitoring and Analysis
The integrated analytics function allows individual evaluations of the experience to measure visitor flow, number of visitors, utilisation, and dwell time at the individual stations.
Via a central administration point at check-in, employees can monitor stations, reset them, or if required, reactivate stations on an RFID wristband. The Journey stipulates that each station can only be passed through once – but in exceptional cases this can be bypassed. It is not possible to go through the stations in a different order, as the BVB Experience consistently follows the path from talent to professional player. If a station is skipped, it must be confirmed that you want to do so.
If a station must be run through multiple times for a group event, individual master chips can be issued that allow a station to be customized and/or run through.
Two years ago, initial considerations were made, and loose ideas were formed to create a fan experience. iXtenda accompanied BVB through the conception phase and was a sparring partner for the concept and ideas. The official go-ahead for the BVB Experience between BVB and iXtenda came just before the end of the Bundesliga season 22/23. However, the implementation window was limited to just a few weeks due to the training camp and team preparation time in the summer break. Physical construction of the Experience began in early June and was completed by the season opener in mid-August. With most aspects being initiated, processed, and completed by iXtenda, including design, 3D printing and construction, the renovation was possible in such a brief time.
Benjamin Brostian, CEO of iXtenda GmbH, says: „A lot of custom creation went into this project; Physical items like the dribbling LED columns, equipped with their various microelectronics, furniture construction, hardware and software, the local and cloud-based user and data management system, the RFID management system, and the inte-gration of AI-supported solutions. Much of this was developed ‚from scratch‘ in collaboration with our partners. For us, it was a fantastic opportunity to bundle our skills and experiences with our partner network and challenge our capabilities. I am incredibly grateful we were able to influence and create a large part of this concept. This project has shown that when creation, storytelling and technology come together early on, the results are quite remarkable. We thank the BVB officials for their trust and all partners and suppliers for their valued collaboration.“
The BVB Experience can be booked from August 14, 2023, from Monday to Saturday from 10:00 am to 4:30 pm (except on match days and public holidays).
Overall responsibility for creation, planning, and implementation: iXtenda, Borussia Dortmund
Media server: IOVERSAL – Vertex
Technical implementation: iXtenda, Nightfever Showtechnic, AV Active
Media production: Borussia Dortmund, 5vorFilm
Furniture and special construction, 3D printing: iXtenda, Lichtlogistik LED Support, WRCK Raumkonzepte, Object furnishing Faber.