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Birmingham Royal Ballet embraces tech to reach new audiences

In this blog we highlight the Birmingham Royal Ballet's journey to investing in new technologies, and the lessons your business can learn from their experience.
Man using VR headset at Birmingham Royal Ballet

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Birmingham Royal Ballet embraces tech to reach new audiences

In this blog we highlight the Birmingham Royal Ballet's journey to investing in new technologies, and the lessons your business can learn from their experience.
Man using VR headset at Birmingham Royal Ballet

Augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) & motion capture (MC) technologies might seem a little daunting and futuristic, but their implementation could be more affordable than you think. When it comes to investing in AR, VR and MC, the Birmingham Royal Ballet has been experimenting with the tech since lockdown as a way of promoting its work to new audiences and engaging with young people.

Tom Rogers, a former dancer with the company, is now their Creative Digital Producer and has pioneered their use thanks to a grant from the Bloomberg Digital Accelerator Programme. This saw the company digitalising several of their productions such as the Nutcracker and turning it into a 3D experience with voiceover and text delivered through a Virtual Reality Experience.

The Birmingham Royal Ballet’s journey

Tom stated;

‘The two lockdowns made us re-evaluate how we operate as a business.  Faced with Covid restrictions we invested in our digital offering and created the Virtual Stage. For some disabled people attending a live experience can be both physically and mentally challenging. The Virtual Stage which can be accessed using mobile phones and VR headsets has engaged this audience and will allow us to take our production to children attending special educational needs schools.’

To engage people and businesses in Birmingham at the end of last year the company created an augmented reality trail around the city called ‘The 12 Days of NutcrackAR’. It offered everyone the chance to look more closely at props and costumes from famous productions using their smart device from the Sugar Plum Fairy’s tutu to the heavily embroidered coat of the Rat King. Twelve vinyl posters were presented in various formats and located across the city with unique QR codes leading to the AR content, descriptive text and voiceover.

Investing in AR, VR, & MC

‘Many people will assume that investing in AR, VR & MC is not only expensive but also technically demanding. In fact, the NutcrackAR campaign cost us just £6k working with the Warwickshire based software developer RiVR. It allowed us to digitalise many of our assets and take our message across the city, in particular engaging with a younger audience.

We also had enquiries from businesses and since the campaign we’ve embarked on an exciting new partnership with the digital camera company Canon. It also helped with marketing the company around the world as people anywhere can now see one of our productions in their own time and consume as much or as little content as they want. In terms of value for money and outreach, the campaign has been a great success.’

Lessons your business can learn

Tom believes many of the lessons the company learnt are applicable to any business considering investing in AR, VR or MC. His top tips are;

  1. Tech can’t replace traditional marketing techniques, but it can complement them. AR, VR and MC is evolving constantly and now is a good time to invest in it as the tech is affordable.
  2. A campaign which uses tech for tech’s sake won’t work but if there is a part of your business which could benefit from it, then explore it as part of your marketing strategy. As our NutcrakAR experience showed if you are creative, you can produce good results. 
  3. Digitalising your products and services is an investment in the future of your business – it will help to promote it to new audiences and engage a younger tech savvy demographic.
  4. Tech provides a good first point of contact for engaging with busy people, but you have to be creative as we are all swamped with digital marketing. Over the next few years, it will continue to evolve and will increasing take over from more traditional marketing methods such as leafleting and billboard advertising.
  5. The way we consume tech is changing. At the moment VR headsets are still big and expensive but digital technology is advancing at such a pace that soon immersive 3D experiences will be much more accessible
  6. Investing in tech solutions now can open up exciting new business partnerships and upskill your workforce. It will also help break down barriers and engage new audiences who may not have thought of trading with your company.

Tom added;

‘This technology is still in its infancy and at the present time in terms of development it’s like the Wild West, so now is exactly the right time to consider investing in it before the tech giants corner the market.’ 

Find out more about the Birmingham Royal Ballet when they take up residency at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery’s Waterhall from 26 June to 2 July.

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