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Adidas: Ace Collection

AR Experience

Candace Parker has always rocked Adidas. Even in high school, she took the three stripes to the rim, and she’s been elevating the brand ever since.

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Candace was the second WNBA player in the history of the league to slam dunk.

Nineteen years and two WNBA Championships later, Candace Parker has become one the best basketball players of all time. She earned the nickname “Ace.” And she’s earned the love of countless fans and followers. 

How does a superstar athlete deepen that relationship? Shoes.

Adidas has been making custom shoes for Candace to play in for years, but this new line, the Ace Collection, is the first one on store shelves.

As part of the launch of the collection, Adidas developed a “pactivation” plan. They’d ship the shoes and other Ace swag in stylized boxes to celebrities, influencers, media, and Candace’s friends and family.

The packaging—crafted by our partner Hovers Over Water—was beautiful, and the shoes and threads were clean, but Adidas wanted an AR element to accompany it all. Their idea was to turn the lid of the box into an augmented reality target to prompt a video. So, when the celebrity influencer, or media personality scanned the box with their phone’s camera, the video would hover and play in the space above the lid.

They asked us if we could do it.

Of course, we were thrilled to be part of this project, and we thought the video, which featured superstar athletes and coaches, was engaging, but through our work in AR, we knew there were more immersive ways to use the technology. 

Video, after all, isn’t the most immersive media. Augmented reality was built for interactivity.

What if the celebrity audience could toy with the elements of the brand, rather than remain passive viewers of it? What if they could hear Candace orate her own life story? What if we could elevate the experience the way she elevated the game?

Initial UX document diagraming the user’s flow through the AR experience.

We knew the motivation behind this collection — the driving theme — was Candace’s excellence. But how did the player we see on the court come to be? Knowing an athlete’s backstory draws fans closer, so we built three-dimensional, immersive scenes, set to Candace’s voice, that chronicled distinct moments from her life and career.

When influencers and media members scanned the box with their phone’s camera, they were taken through an introductory experience where the lid of the box exploded into thousands of ACE playing cards forming sculptural versions of the adidas, Dick’s and ACE logos. 

From there, users were presented with navigation “cards” from which they could choose from four experiences to immerse themselves in Candace’s story and her collection. 

The primary navigation experience

Home Court

In 2021, after nine seasons with the L.A. Sparks, Candace returned to her hometown of Chicago, and she brought a championship season with her. We celebrated this homecoming with scenes that depicted her connection to Chicago. We called this group of scenes “Home Court,” and it was oriented on the lid of the box.

A single AR tracker can serve as a focal point for multiple animated scenes with clever use of interaction mechanics and UI. For an even more performant experience on low-end devices, we’re unloading 3D assets from memory dynamically as the audience moves through the narrative.

The Chicago skyline

A commemoration of her championships

Young Candace shooting baskets in a gym back home

Card Stories

Next in the main navigation were the “Card Stories.” This is where we helped adidas show off the shoes’ three distinct colorways and cement Candace’s reputation as Ace.

We programmed the technology to recognize seven oversized, branded playing cards that came inside the box. When the user’s camera found one of the cards, a 3-dimensional scene would appear in the air above it. 

The team used creative UI systems and user flows to overcome several limitations of AR technology, like how many markers can be tracked at once. In addition to crafting engaging 3D animation that illustrates Candace’s story, our technical artists used real-time environment maps to make the gold material reflective - her fans can literally see their world reflected in this story.

The Hooper Game

Establishing 3-dimensional environments in the homes of media influencers and celebrities was cool, but we knew we could push the technology further and create a truly unique branded moment. When an entire collection is based on a legendary hooper like Candace, why not give the audience a chance to hoop, too?

Beyond the narrative experience, we challenged and engaged our audience with a Pop-a-Shot-inspired AR mini-game using realistic physics simulation and a networked leaderboard to inspire competition.

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A networked leaderboard to inspire competition.

At Paradowski, it’s always been our philosophy that immersive technology should be accessible. We make it as easy as possible for people to find and use the things we build. So, rather than building this technology in an app, we chose to put it on the open web using a platform called 8th Wall. Our immersive developers built multiple custom features on the platform, which uses the industry-leading open source three.js library, such particle systems to send the branded Ace cards flying through the air to form, fully animated app-scale React UI to make the experience easy to navigate, and clever manipulation of AR tracking modes to achieve interaction design goals.

“Okay, are you kidding me? You've set the bar this high now for every seeding kit.”

The design, execution, and performance of the packtivation project was so well-received, Adidas asked if we could retrofit the assets for another use. Candace was doing a live event at a Dick’s Sporting Goods near Chicago, and Adidas wanted to display the playing cards on podiums around the room so attendees could interact with them in AR.

With people up on their feet, moving around a branded space, we knew AR would be a great tactic, so we reconfigured the site to fit the needs of the event.

Candace’s hard work, undeniable talent, and humble values are central to her brand. She elevates everything she touches. With our capabilities in media technology, we helped audiences feel that by elevating her story.