How movie studios are leveraging the sports and gaming ecosystems to engage with consumers

In an era of rapidly evolving entertainment landscapes, movie studios are increasingly turning to more creative, and even disruptive, avenues to engage with consumers. 

The sports and gaming environments provide the opportunity for a range of brands to reach incredibly engaged audiences, and movie studios – from Marvel, to Warner Bros, Disney and beyond have tapped into other markets in an attempt to go big at the box office.

Entering the Esports ecosystem

The world of esports – the professional competitive gaming scene – has a highly engaged audience, but those looking to capture those fans must nail their execution for it to be worthwhile. Having the right product, presenting it in the most organic way possible and towards fans of a particular game are just three components to consider.

Universal Pictures’ Five Nights at Freddy’s (FNAF) managed to tick all those boxes, with the film based on the very successful video game series – and Universal utilised esports powerhouse XL to promote the movie.

The collaboration saw the two brands create multiple touchpoints to get UK esports and gaming audiences hyped up for the release, with all XL owned and talent channels or streams updated with assets featuring the FNAF logo. XL fans had the chance to win tickets to a pre-screening, as well as a FNAF themed PC giveaway, which generated over 30,000 engagements in the community.

XL then looked at the world of creators to provide bespoke content on the web, with gaming influencer Elz the Witch teaming up with Great British Bake Off star Ruby Bhogal to produce a FNAF themed bake. The YouTube video chalked up 54,000 views.

Joining a collective

Creator collectives are a fairly new facet in the digital age, but in short, a creator collective is a group of influencers or creators who will often have a combined channel as well their own. Think about KSI with the Sidemen or Chunkz with Beta Squad.

Formula 1 driver Lando Norris set up his own collective, Quadrant, in 2021 – focussed on gaming, racing, content and apparel. Amongst the group are F1 sim racers, Call of Duty players and FIFA / EA FC streamers.

They teamed up with Sony Pictures for the release of Gran Turismo – the new film inspired by the iconic racing game franchise, a perfect fit for Quadrant. Together, they produced a content series using their own sim racers, as well as hyping up the film with various teasers.

Teaming up with the Premier League champions

Moving away from the gaming space, movie studios have also looked to the world of sport to reach larger audiences. This was the case for Warner Bros. and the release of DC title Blue Beetle, for which they formed a partnership with Manchester City.

As well as promoting the film across Man City social platforms, Blue Beetle was promoted on the LED perimeter advertising boards at the Etihad Stadium for the first match weekend of the 2023/24 Premier League season, gaining exposure to those watching the game live around the world as well as the highlights online. 

Additionally, Blue Beetle arrived in Man City’s Blue Moon Roblox experience, with users able to engage with the character as well as to watch the trailer within the experience.

The announcement of the partnership racked up close to 400,000 likes on Instagram, with over 900 comments.

Kitting out the Champions of Europe

To promote the release of The King’s Man, the third instalment in the Kingsman franchise, Disney and 20th Century Studios partnered with Chelsea FC.

A matchday takeover saw The King’s Man promoted on the LED perimeter advertising at Stamford Bridge, as well as a digital publishing takeover ranging from the Instagram story to ‘The King’s Man of the Match’, as well as a matchday promo film.

Additionally, a dedicated content piece saw three Chelsea players interact with props from the film in a special edition of the content series ‘Chelsea Trending’. The video picked up over 260,000 views on YouTube.

Rewarding fans in-game

Sony Pictures once again dived into the gaming sphere for the release of Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile, partnering with Misfits gaming on a Minecraft-focused influencer campaign.

They went the extra mile with players able to pick up in-game rewards – a microphone, crocodile "hoodie", scarf and crocodile tail in celebration of the film. This could be unlocked by watching the trailer inside the Minecraft Misfits server. 

The campaign was then supported by top UK Minecraft influencers to amplify the reach. One example was a YouTube video by Ethan Gamer (3.2M subscribers), in which the influencer recreated Lyle, Lyle Crocodile inside the game of Minecraft with fans. The creative video generated over 169,000 organic views. 

Embracing the crossover

Perhaps the biggest dive into the esports world has been executed by HBO, where they partnered with the LCS – the North American League of Legends competition – for the release of House of the Dragon, the Game of Thrones spin off.

The LCS broadcast was kitted out with unique elements and branding, with banners in the map, as well as a customised connected to each secured ‘Dragon Soul’, the first Dragon entitlement in the competition’s history.

The campaign was worth $3.3m in 100% media value, with 19 million hours of gameplay watched.

Storytelling crosses industry boundaries

Movie studios are breaking new ground by strategically integrating their content into the expansive worlds of sports and gaming. 

The synergy between storytelling, new experiences and intelligent marketing not only enhances the promotion of films but also creates a dynamic and engaging relationship with consumers.

As the boundaries between entertainment mediums continue to blur, the convergence of cinema, sports and gaming ecosystems is poised to redefine how audiences experience and connect with their favourite stories.

Beyond the Match
The SPORTFIVE Magazine

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