Cutting Through the Noise: Giving VR a Stage at NBA All Star Weekend

Sports exhibitions are chaos. They’re loud, crowded, and loaded — booths and events everywhere, brazenly competing for the attention of each and every attendee. So, if you’re a brand standing up an experience at a high-volume sports convention, how do you cut through the noise?

That’s exactly the question that Meta found itself facing earlier this year. As the company prepared to introduce its Meta Quest VR headset to a whole new audience of hoops fans at Crossover — NBA All-Star Weekend’s companion convention in Salt Lake City — Meta Quest knew another basketball-themed activation wouldn’t make the splash it was looking for. So they tapped AW to help bring a different kind of noise.

A photo of an airport ticketing area with a large NBA graphic on the ground

Harnessing the weekend’s competitive spirit, we worked with Meta to develop, execute, and capture the Beat Saber Showdown, a two-day event that took our NBA audience’s passion for over-the-top sports highlights and flipped it on its head. Leaving the world of basketball behind, we borrowed inspiration from the drama of combat sports — the tuxedoed emcee, the ring robes, and championship belts — and led the charge on concepting, strategy, experience and set design, event management, storytelling, and content production. Ultimately, we created a spectacle with buzz on the ground and stopping power on social.

Day one pitted sports and fitness influencers against each other in a bracket-style tournament of Beat Saber, a VR game where players slash blocks along to an adrenaline-pumping soundtrack. The prize? Team up with NBA All-Star and VR aficionado Dame Lillard in the main event the following day. Eight influencers went head-to-head, capturing and broadcasting the action along the way. Seven saber match-ups later, dancer Taylor Pierce took the victory.

A photo of two people dressed in suits with an award, a photo of a colorful display booth, and a photo of a crowd gathered around a basketball court
From left to right: Host D’Vontay Friga and influencer champion Taylor Pierce; the Meta Quest demo booth within NBA Crossover; an emphatic crowd gathered to watch Dame Lillard try his hand at Beat Saber.

On day two, a crowd of NBA fans swarmed the final showdown stage, a boxing ring constructed on the half-courts at Crossover. Our emcee opened, followed by hyped-up entrances from influencer champ Taylor Pierce, All-Star Dame Lillard, and their mystery opponent: Beat Saber expert LSToast. With a next-level performance, LSToast easily surpassed the combined Beat Saber scores of Dame and Taylor. But Dame countered with his own challenge for Toast: his game-of-choice, VR boxing. In the end, Dame got the knockout, claiming perhaps his first-ever WWE-style championship belt.

By the last clang of the ringside bell, we helped Meta Quest show the crowd how VR brings athletes like Dame closer to their off-court passions — and lets fans like them get closer to the worlds they ache to be part of. And as the only non-hoops-oriented event at Crossover, the Beat Saber Showdown engaged attendees on the ground and online, generating upwards of 15 million impressions across social channels, including content that the AW team created for not only Meta Quest, but also the NBA and Dame. By using basketball as a jumping off point and landing in a different universe, Meta Quest’s Beat Saber Showdown demonstrated that when you have the guts to tell a different story than what’s expected, you can cut through the noise — whether that’s at a chaotic sports convention or in a crowded social landscape.

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