Why in-game advertising should be part of your marketing mix

Reading time: 4 minutes

The gaming industry has grown so much in recent years, that it now sits alongside sports, music and fashion and film industries as influencing modern culture.

From Ariana Grande collaborating with Fortnite, Lil Nas X and League of Legends, as well as Neymar and Call of Duty, the lines between industries are becoming all the blurred with every passing year.

Of course the potential rise of the metaverse has risen the prominence of gaming in the interim, but it is also worth noting the influence of gaming on modern film with titles such as Free Guy, Super Mario Bros. and Sonic the Hedgehog all heavily inspired by the world of gaming.

What does this mean for brands though? How can they capitalise on this market that has matured into the mainstream? Well, there are multiple possibilities to enter the gaming space, with some rich rewards to be made.

In-game advertising key terms

There are a few terms that relate to in-game advertising, and it’s important to distinguish between them.

In-game advertising: The positioning of third-party brandings into a game. This can be in a range of ways, but most traditionally, by advertisement banners or pop-ups, the ads don't have a usage in the game and can rather be seen as a classic media booking and purely branding.

In-game integration: The integration of third-party items into a game, and are mainly usable objects. This could be branded in-game items that players can unlock or purchase, or branded areas, modes, activities or events.

Co-marketing: The process of growing two or more businesses at the same time by working together to share expertise with, and offer value for, their audiences. Co-marketing means a trade between brand and publisher IP on their reach and target audience. Brands use the highly emotionalised gaming IP and offer their reach on their planned campaign on Social Media or at the retail displays.

Targeting an incredibly valuable audience

Firstly, utilising in-game advertising enables you to reach one of the most valuable audiences out there. 

Eight out of 10 in the entire online population have engaged with games in the past six months, whilst 40% of Gen Alpha and Gen Z engage with gaming across playing, viewing and socialising in-game.

Over half of players have spent money on video games in the past six months. Besides special offers, the potential to unlock extra of exclusive content and customisation options are key motivators for spending. Nearly all players spend money on in-game items, demonstrating how important it is for publishers and developers to optimise these offerings to attract continued player investment. 

This shows that the gaming community do spend money, but it is important that in-game activations are positioned correctly and engage with the audience.

Undivided attention

95% of people have a mobile device in hand whilst watching TV. They may not even be concentrating fully during the film or tv show they are watching, let alone when it is time for the adverts.

In the gaming space, this isn’t possible – players provide their undivided attention in the game – meaning they are more susceptible to in-game advertising, providing it is not overly intrusive. Similarly, gamers play games over and over, whether that is multiple matches in FIFA, Fortnite or Call of Duty – building up important engagement.  

This is a truly love and emotionally charged environment, enabling brands to meet their target group where people hang out with their friends online, but are actually just by themselves.

Of course this can be done in a range of ways, such as in-game banners in mobile games, or product placements. In the case of watch brand Hamilton, they placed their Khaki Field Titanium Automatic watch in Ubisoft’s Far Cry 6, with the item able to be unlocked by completing a mission.

The brand received 15 million hours of on screen time in just the first month, with an incredible 71% of players equipping the watch. Hamilton also released the limited edition watch in real life, worth £1,000, building brand resonance.

Range of placements

“In-game advertising” can mean a range of things. In-game pop up ads on mobile games may be what most our familiar with, but this can be in-game ad boards – things that you may recognise from games such as FIFA, Farming Simulator and open world titles such as Fortnite.

Perhaps more effective is strategic collaborations in game, which have worked especially well in the “metaverse-type” open world games like Fortnite, Roblox and Minecraft. Fortnite regularly collaborates with brands, ranging from Marvel (which is very intrinsic with its player base), to the NFL and Air Jordan.

In these collabs, brands will have a range of items, or even themed playable avatars in game that show off their products – the more engaging they are, the more visible they will become. 

Product placements in Farming Simulator have worked incredibly well, with products not only advertised on billboards in-game, but are also usable whilst farming. Helm produce farm chemical products such as fertilisers, and their products were made available to use in the game as well as non-intrusive billboards spread throughout.

Helm’s relationship with Farming Simulator has become so strong it has further extended the partnership by now being the main sponsor of the Farming Simulator League – the esports competition for the game.

Geo targeting

Technology has progressed so much in recent years that now you can target your adverts to only appear in certain locations.

Doing so enables brands to increase relevance and engagement, as well as the specific delivery of ads to the intended audience.

BauWatch, who provide temporary CCTV for construction projects, partnered with Farming Simulator 22 to position in-game adverts. The placements were geo-targeted to Netherlands, Germany, Poland and the UK with the ads shown in the native language of that country.

The campaign, which saw BauWatch products advertised on highly authentic, non-intrusive in-game billboards was a resounding success with the 12-week campaign receiving 27 million impressions across those selected markets, with 10 million unique impressions, with figures likely higher when taking streaming into account.

In-game advertising can also be a more cost-effective method than traditional advertising alternatives. The ability to deliver personalised and relevant ads to the right audience at the right time and place is incredibly valuable.

This in turn will increase the chances of engagement and conversion. For even further cost-effectiveness, static ads can help create a long-lasting impression players, and with them not requiring frequent updates or changes it is certainly a cheaper option.

A further example of in-game advertising saw OneFootball – an app that shows football live scores – have placements across four different mobile games. These were Football Manager 2022, Top Eleven, Football Cup 2021 and Soccer Stars.

The placements were simple perimeter advertising placements around the virtual pitch, with the campaign racking up 9.5 million impressions and over 22,000 hours of viewability across the various games.

Beyond the Match
The SPORTFIVE Magazine

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