Street View is Google's premiere technology to experience areas around the globe key to our cultural heritage in 360 degrees. In recent years, Google focused on user generated Street View (uSV), which empowers anyone to create their own 360 images. Through Street View, thousands of locations around the world can be shared and explored virtually.
Google sought to increase organic engagement with Street View, raise awareness of the ability to create uSV, and use the platform to bring users along on an extraordinary and visually-captivating journey.
To spotlight the power of 360 storytelling, the team sought to enable incredible characters to use uSV to share their stories with the world. There was no better partner for this project than Lonnie Bedwell, a US Navy veteran who had become the first blind person to kayak the Grand Canyon in 2015.
Now, for 2018, Google partnered with Bedwell and the non-profit Team River Runner to support and organize the first-ever team of 5 blind kayakers - all veterans - as they navigated 226 miles down the Grand Canyon. An iconic landmark, few visitors have seen the stunning view from the winding river at its core. The challenging rapids leave it inaccessible to most, but this group of blind veterans is used to overcoming obstacles. Lonnie sought to raise awareness for veterans' issues and inspire both sighted and visually impaired adventurers around the world by using uSV to document their expedition.
The project launched on Veterans Day 2018 with 360 degree photos embedded in Street View and across Google's social media channels. Creative executions included a 4-minute feature video, 360 video of the blind kayakers in a rapid, a 1-minute Instagram video, Instagram story photos, 20 additional still photos, and B-roll for broadcast media. Millions of people watched the team conquer the rapids, ending in a well-deserved celebration and paddle salute.
Their accomplishment proves, as Lonnie says, that "we must share our experience to inspire and invigorate others." And their story will continue to reach people through Google Street View - an adventure accessible in the palm of your hand.
In the first week after launch, Google's goals were met with an unprecedented 10.3M organic views of the kayakers' Street View photos.
On social media, the team focused on reach outside of the traditional "tech audience." Outdoor influencers like GoPro, Chris Burkard, and Jimmy Chin all organically shared the story and stunning photos on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, as did many veterans' organizations. More than 3.9M viewers watched Google's Instagram story about the incredible project. The feature video was viewed nearly 300,000 times and an additional 57,000 people explored the 360 interactive video.
The Street View and the Kayakers were featured on the Today Show, including multiple mentions of Google specifically. Social and traditional media amplified total content views to 24.2M.