Baseball Giant Brian Wilson Pitches Virtual VUE


San Francisco Giants pitcher Brian Wilson (whose awesome beard deserves its own agent) is the first professional athlete in history to host a virtual event…not coincidentally the day after baseball season ended.

The Giants may have failed to make the playoffs, but Wilson’s just signed onto a new pitching gig, one that harnesses the power of that epic beard. 

Wilson is helping ON24 host its VUE2011 conference at its corporate HQ in San Francisco, drawing attention with a tagline: “fear the beard, not the technology.” It’s meant to tout the ease, economy and effectiveness of virtual participation via iPhone and PC rather than physical attendance.

“I’m hosting the VUE because I know what it takes to win, in both sports and business. Just like in baseball, business success requires confidence and communication. You also need the right equipment. Virtual events are the communications platform for high-performance companies. In the VUE, you’ll learn all about how to easily take your events—and your content—virtually anywhere,” said Wilson in a release.[more]

ON24’s choice of an athlete is largely due to the public’s waning faith in corporate leaders in the current economy. In a recent survey of 100,000 executives, conducted September 23, the day after the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) announced initial claims for unemployment rose in August from July, 71% of executives polled said athletes are being used frequently in corporate events, with 18% asserting that athletes are being used more frequently than ever before.

Execs gave the following reasons for the growing popularity of athletes over traditional business speakers:

  • 64% say athletes don’t talk in “corporate speak” and instead speak like “real people
  • 27% insist that sports has a true relevance to the business world
  • 25% think audiences develop trust in athletes by watching them perform on a regular basis
  • 11% believe we hate our jobs and wish we could something we love like athletes do.

Wilson’s virtual 3-D tour includes San Francisco icons like the Golden Gate Bridge, Chinatown, Union Square, and the “Painted Ladies.” The popularity of virtual events is increasing and last year’s VUE drew 4,000 plus registrants.

“We asked Brian Wilson to join our team for the VUE because we knew he had the qualities that executives look for and ON24 shares – originality and top performance. During this time of economic uncertainty these executives don’t ‘fear the beard,’ but an uncertain economy,” said ON24 VP and CMO Denise Persson.

In the same survey, benefits given of seeing favorite athletes on computer or mobile devices instead of “in the flesh,” include:

  • 75% appreciate watching athletes at their convenience
  • 48% don’t want to camp out for a good seat
  • 43% want to “fast forward” through an athlete’s address if they get bored
  • 33% want the ability to forward the address if they want to share it with friends.

VUE2011 Virtual Events User Experience (hashtag #VUE2011), will be held on November 17, and Wilson and ON24 are betting it will be a home run.