Footwear Brand Invites Sundance Attendees to Virtual Reality Hike

Footwear Brand Invites Sundance Attendees to Virtual Reality Hike

Merrell explores marketing peaks with immersive imagery to inspire film festival attendees

Kiran Umapathy
  • 22 january 2015

More and more brands are taking advantage of virtual reality as a new storytelling medium to connect with consumers. Case in point: the off-the-road experience outdoor apparel company Merrell has planned for this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

With the help of Oscar-winning visual effects/content studio Framestore (known for work on the film Gravity) and advertising agency Hill Holliday, Merrell will treat attendees to an Oculus Rift experience it calls TrailScape in support of the launch of its new hiking boot, the Capra. The boot is named and designed after the Capra mountain goat, known to scramble through trails and mountainsides.

“With the emergence of virtual reality, we thought we could really give people a wonderful, immersive experience that could take them as close to the outdoors as possible,” Rick McHugh, Creative Director and Copywriter at Hill Holliday says. “Virtual reality is so powerful, it really fits perfectly with the Merrell brand goal of inspiring folks to get outside and be awed by nature.”

This project is the first commercial in-motion Oculus Rift experience where the user will be able to walk around wearing the headset with motion capture technology. The experience will transport people to a basecamp in the mountains where they’ll balance along rock ledges and traverse a suspension bridge between peaks, aligning with the product.

Mike Woods, Executive Creative Director at Framestore explains why virtual reality is an effective marketing tool:

If you construct your environments to be as lifelike and believable as possible, then you are taking people into your world. We’ve seen a trend online that proves that bigger, more immersive imagery is a more effective tool for marketing, and this takes this idea to an ultimate point. Come into our world. Be a part of our story. These are truly compelling tools for marketers. And I don’t think we’ve even begun to explore new storytelling rules. This is very early days in a whole new genre.

As for the future, Woods sees technologies similar to the idea of a holodeck (something only previously conceived in Star Trek) becoming achievable. Really, experiences that allow users to explore a place they are not currently in have the ability to permeate into every single industry.

sundance oculus rift merrel

In addition to the virtual reality experience, Merrell’s boot launch includes a partnership with Rolling Stone. There will be an Interview Studio session with film reviewer Peter Travers talking to filmmakers, tastemakers and festival talent. There will also be live music from a well-known artist that has yet to be announced.

“Merrell’s TrailScape at Sundance celebrates an exciting new era for our brand,” says Gene McCarthy, President of Merrell. “We are collaborating with Rolling Stone to bring the consumer a breathtaking experience that will inspire them to connect with the awe of the outdoors.”

sundance oculus rift merrel

Merrell’s TrailScape will be hosted during Sundance at 625 Main Street from January 22nd – 25th. The space will feature festival hospitality, a gifting studio, junket event space, a celebrity portrait studio and, of course, the virtual reality experience. Guests will also be able to sample key Merrell products from mid-layers to hiking boots.

Those unable to attend can follow the experience on social with @merrelloutside and #TrailScape.


Photo: Sebastian Stabinger // Wikimedia Commons

+fashion / apparel
+Hill Holiday
+oculus rift
+Virtual Reality

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