Gaming has become a powerful marketing tool
Society is evolving, and the coronavirus pandemic only further accelerated the progression of the digital age. The spend in gaming advertising for 2023 is estimated to be at £815 million, with it expected to grown to £1.86 billion by 2026.
A strong online presence has become a necessity for any powerful brand or business, and they are now looking to gaming to reach younger and dedicated audiences.
With 3 billion gamers worldwide, there’s a huge market for brands to target, but they must be intelligent in how they approach the audience. The gaming community can be incredibly vocal in criticism, so ensuring you have the correct approach is vital.
Lucy Aitken, Head of Content at LIONS Intelligence, explained some of the most important principles when marketing in gaming, and showed off some of the most successful campaigns in the gaming space:
Bring people together and broaden your audience – Xbox Reboxing – enabling Xbox fans to connect with their grandparents by gifting their old consoles
Act like a person, lose corporate speak and try to develop a character – L’Enfant Bleu’s Undercover Avatar in Fortnite – providing a character as a distinctive asset with the aim of safeguarding children during the pandemic
Encourage good behaviour – Samsung’s anti-bullying skin in Fortnite – those who had purchased a Samsung Galaxy could download and gift the device to players who may not have been able to afford purchasing other skins
Picking your lane
Having a desire to get involved in gaming is a great start, but there are so many avenues to go down, so it’s important to pick the correct entry point, and how to build your brand in a new space.
Looking at Formula E, one of the fastest growing motorsport championships with a 20% increase in viewership year-on-year, has evolved its gaming presence over the last 10 years, but not by creating its own game at first. Instead, Formula E partnered with existing game platforms to start building its brand presence in the gaming world.
In 2014, the first Formula E car joined a game in Forza Motorsport 5, whilst 10 cars were available at launch on Forza Motorsport 6 the following year. Fast forward a few years and Formula E cars are available on mobile games Real Racing 3 and Motorsport Manager Online.
An officially endorsed title called Formula E High Voltage is arriving in the metaverse this year as the brand looks to get a head start on the blockchain and take learnings as the product develops.
The game will exist within the REVV Motorsport ecosystem, ensuring that the title is presented to an organic audience of racing fans, which already has play-and-earn titles in Revv Racing and MotoGP Ignition.
Reaching new audiences
For already established brands, entering into the gaming space can be daunting, as a brand won’t want to shock the audience in its activations.
Perhaps the best example of this was Elton John’s Beyond the Yellow Brick Road Roblox activation, as part of the iconic singer’s final ever tour.
As he waves goodbye, you could question why he would bother in trying to capture a new audience, with the Rocketman singer already having millions of fans.
That said, his farewell tour presents the opportunity of promoting Elton’s music and career to new audiences – and they may stream his music for many years to come.
The virtual experience on Roblox enables fans to see Elton’s iconic digital fashion and photographs of interactive challenges set to his greatest hit songs. A special performance also took place within the experience, and players avatars appeared on the big screens at Elton’s performance at Dodgers Stadium.
Legalities in the gaming space are evolving
We know the world of gaming changes from day to day, but the legalities around it can be complex, especially when so many children are playing online.
Loot boxes have been a controversial topic in gaming, with many countries banning them. These are virtual items which can be bought via in-game currency, but with a randomised selection of further virtual items inside. These can range from avatar customisation options, to in-game items such as weapons.
Due to the legalities, and lottery, of the items, game developers are starting to move away from them, and towards the Battle Pass model. In some games these are just part of themed seasons, but it’s a whole line of themed items, which can both be cosmetic or give the player an advantage with weapons. Often you can unlock more items by levelling up and gaining XP.
Fortnite does this intelligently, with two versions of the Battle Pass existing. A paid premium able to be purchased, with a free pass also available. You can earn the in-game currency V-bucks through the battle pass, so each season you can use your earned V-bucks to spend on the new battle pass.
Other tiered options are available such as the Crew pack, which includes the Battle Pass, additional cosmetics and 1,000 V-Bucks.
Providing intrinsic placements
Ensuring activations in gaming in esports feel natural is vitally important. Coming up with smart ways about how your brand can feel organic in the space is difficult, but the successes are clear to see.
A great example of this is Heinz Hidden Spots. Heinz identified that whilst gaming online, it can sometimes be impossible for players to pause the game, and therefore can’t stop to eat. Heinz teamed up with Call of Duty to identify “hidden spots” in the game, where players can take a minute to eat, whilst not getting killed in game. Creators and Streamers were sent burgers, with maps on the wraps so they could eat safely.
The campaign was so successful that it grew outside of Call of Duty, with “Hidden Spots” popping up in other games such as Fortnite, CS:GO and PUBG.
EA Sports’ FIFA franchise has always been able to blur the lines between real life and virtual football, and this was done brilliantly with the El Tornado campaign for the release of FIFA 18. EA invented their own skill move El Tornado, which only Cristiano Ronaldo could perform in-game – but the controls for it were not revealed.
Players had to work out how to do it, both in-game and real-life, with professional footballers such as Yannick Bolasie keen to get El Tornado certified by performing the skill in real life.
The campaign broke records for the FIFA franchise, with over 304 million views of the official film.