Elton John and Google Created a Virtual Map-Based Fan Experience for His Final U.S. Tour Stop

To mark his very last concert in North America—along with its livestream on Disney+—the iconic musician teamed up with the Google Maps Platform to create a first-of-its-kind scavenger hunt for fans.

Elton John and Google's Tech-Based Fan Experience
Elton John's ongoing Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour kicked off in 2018, and wrapped up its U.S. leg with three shows at Dodger Stadium this past weekend. A recording of his three-hour Nov. 20 show—called Elton John Live: Farewell From Dodger Stadium—is now available on Disney+. The streaming service will also host an upcoming documentary on his career, co-directed by R.J. Cutler and John's husband, David Furnish.
Photo: Tony Norkus/Shutterstock

LOS ANGELES—For two nights in October 1975, Elton John strutted into LA’s Dodger Stadium in a bedazzled baseball uniform to perform in front of a total crowd of 100,000 people—marking the largest-ever shows from a solo artist at that time.

Now, 47 years later, John returned to Dodger Stadium (this time in a bedazzled robe) to close out the North American leg of his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour—which kicked off in September 2018 and will consist of more than 300 concerts worldwide. 

Dodger Stadium was a fitting choice for his final U.S. concert, which took place on Nov. 20 and is now streaming on Disney+. After all, “I started off in Los Angeles at the Troubadour, and I want it to end here because it’s been a magical place for me,” John said in a recent Associated Press interviewElton John and Google's Tech-Based Fan ExperienceThrough a first-of-its-kind partnership with Google Maps Platform, Elton John fans can explore the singer's favorite local spots.Photo: Courtesy of Google

Elton John and Google's Tech-Based Fan ExperienceFans click through the map to read why each location is special to John, and learn about themed deals and experiences available at each stop.Photo: Courtesy of GoogleTo celebrate the three nights of sold-out shows and the Disney+ livestream—along with John’s fondness for Los Angeles—the musician and his Rocket Entertainment company wanted to find a unique way to immerse fans in significant locales from John's storied career.

The result? A first-of-its-kind partnership with Google Maps Platform that lets fans explore spots like the Troubadour club, the Supervinyl record store, and the bookstore Book Soup, and hear stories about John's history along the way. 

“When we began imagining this project, we knew we needed a simple, visual way to identify the exact locations of places that mean something to Elton,” said Rocket Entertainment's head of digital, Rory Newton Dunn, in a blog post. “The choice to start with a map was clear, because what better way for fans to immerse themselves in the city of LA than by using the Google map they’re already familiar with and use every day?”

Available at la.eltonjohn.com, the experience is built with Google Maps Platform’s most cutting-edge features—some of which aren’t even available to the public yet.

“This is Google Maps Platform’s first partnership with an artist, and we’re so excited and inspired by the experience we’ve created together,” said Nina Thatcher, Google Maps Platform's global head of product marketing, in an interview with BizBash. “Google’s and YouTube’s longstanding and deep relationship with Rocket Entertainment and Elton John made for a natural collaboration on this concept.”

How it works: Fans can click through the map to read why each location is special to John, and learn about deals available at each stop—like special merchandise, themed food and beverages, and even a pop-up store and art installation (scroll down to see inside that space!). There were also virtual and in-person scavenger hunts where fans from around the world could enter for a chance to win exclusive prizes. 

Elton John and Google's Tech-Based Fan Experience"We love how the map uses our Advanced Markers feature, which shows customized pins like a baseball, a music note, and a hamburger to indicate specific places on the map," said Nina Thatcher, Google Maps Platform's global head of product marketing.Photo: Courtesy of GoogleThe experience takes advantage of Google Maps' customization features, including the Maps JavaScript API, which allows users to customize maps with their own content and imagery for display on web pages and mobile devices. It also utilizes the platform's Advanced Markers option and cloud-based maps styling to evoke John's signature style, with fun details like colorful pianos, musical notes, and baseballs marking each location. 

The team also developed what they're calling Rocket View, a yet-to-be-released Google Maps Platform feature that adds photo-realistic, 3D videos of the locations on the map by leveraging Google Earth, rendering APIs, and several Google Cloud products to generate drone-like videos. 

"The most exciting—and challenging—part of this project was making sure that we’re doing justice to such an iconic artist, and using our technologies to bring his persona and rich history to life via a digital map," Thatcher said. "And our favorite part was finding the perfect ways and map styles to do just that, with all the options for customization and features available in Google Maps Platform." Elton John and Google's Tech-Based Fan Experience“We’re excited about the potential for the underlying technology of Rocket View (which is how Rocket Entertainment refers to the feature)," Thatcher explained. "Rocket View uses functionality that is under development, and you can stay tuned for updates!”Photo: Courtesy of Google

Thatcher envisions many more opportunities like this for developing incredible immersive experiences using the technology. “For example, last year Cadbury used our platform to create a scavenger hunt, allowing people to hide a Cadbury Easter Egg virtually on the map for a loved one, and then deliver the egg to the recipient’s house after they identified its location on the map,” she said. 

Bonus: Scroll down for a peek inside the official Elton John pop-up store. Elton John and Google's Tech-Based Fan ExperienceLocated at luxury retailer The Webster in West Hollywood, the pop-up shop is a partnership between John's team and Bravado, Universal Music Group's merchandise and brand management company. The space, which is open through Nov. 25, was designed by renowned visual artist Sarah Coleman.Photo: Alberto Rodriguez/PictureGroup for Disney+Elton John and Google's Tech-Based Fan ExperienceThe pop-up also includes vintage Elton John-themed pinball machines and other nostalgia-inducing installations like a beaded piano, a disco chair, a chair made from upcycled vintage T-shirts, and a floral installation by True Blue Blooms.Photo: Alberto Rodriguez/PictureGroup for Disney+Elton John and Google's Tech-Based Fan ExperienceThere’s also a retail element featuring exclusive items in collaboration with The Webster, Coleman, and French menswear brand Blumarble that includes vintage T-shirts and a Dodgers-inspired bomber jacket.Photo: Alberto Rodriguez/PictureGroup for Disney+Elton John and Google's Tech-Based Fan ExperienceAlso on-site are limited-edition stickers, pins, accessories, fine art prints, and more from a variety of fashion labels, all inspired by the musician. The products are also available online. “Elton John has touched all of our lives from the moment he sings the first lyric of his beloved songs to his iconic fashions that will continue to inspire generations," The Webster CEO and founder Laure HĂ©riard Dubreuil said in a statement to the Hollywood Reporter. "We are so thrilled to be able to bring to life our pop-up with the support of Elton John and Bravado, and are so grateful for the trust they have bestowed upon us to do so through our unique lens.”Photo: Alberto Rodriguez/PictureGroup for Disney+

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