Video games have long been a popular escape from reality. All ages and demographics find value in connecting with friends, challenging themselves to beat new levels, and developing new skills.
But people engage with video games in an entirely different way than they did 30 years ago. People aren’t just playing — they’re escaping from their physical lives into alternate universes where they can make virtual friends, build virtual businesses, and live virtual experiences.
The “escaping from a physical life” type behavior and thirst for that escape only increased during the pandemic.
Nielsen found that 82% of global consumers played video games and watched gaming-related content during the height of COVID-19 lockdowns, with global gaming revenue topping $174.9 billion in 2020. If you can properly leverage the space for your brand, you might be able to strike gold.
The Rise of Interactive Gaming Experiences
Gaming has traditionally been viewed as a niche category, but that’s no longer the case. According to The NPD Group’s 2020 Gamer Segmentation Report, 244 million Americans play video games. That’s about 3 in 4 people, an increase of 32 million since 2018. And gamers are playing more than ever: Nearly one-third of them play more than 15 hours a week.
Gaming spans many demographics
With gaming spanning so many demographics, the space is ripe for your brand to move in. Creating integrated brand awareness content that’s organic and non-intrusive is every marketer’s dream.
Remember the brand integration opportunities offered by “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” in 2020? Within the game, players could create custom outfits from brands like Supreme and Gucci and decorate their homes with custom artwork (sponsored by the Metropolitan Museum of Art).
In 2021, Burger King Spain used the editing tools in “NBA 2K21” to create a custom basketball court called The Menu Court. The downloadable court featured photos of popular menu items, with Burger King challenging players to complete trick shots from those marks. If players posted a video on Twitter, tagged Burger King and NBA 2K, and used the hashtag #BKMenuCourt, they received free menu items.
Modern gaming engines: charge your business battery
As developers create more brand integration opportunities, it will be critical to move into the gaming space and capitalize on its success. Musicians, politicians, bands, and other groups have already jumped on the video game marketing bandwagon, so you’d be remiss to ignore this phenomenon.
Run Sprints: your brand in the gaming industry
1. Kick-off an esports campaign.
According to Newzoo’s Global Esports and Live Streaming Market Report, more than 75% of the esports industry’s revenue will come from media rights and sponsorships in 2021. You don’t have to dominate the space to get involved — you just have to play to your strengths.
Consider fashion powerhouse Louis Vuitton, which collaborated with Riot Games on the League of Legends World Championship. Not only did the brand create a custom travel trophy case for the champions, but it also released branded skins and other digital assets for players.
2. Partner with gaming influencers.
Many gaming influencers on Twitch and YouTube have cultivated large, highly engaged followings over time. You can strategically partner with these creators to get in front of the right audience.
For instance, Andrew Telfer (aka Nasher) accumulated his following by playing the NHL video game series on his channels. He became so popular in the hockey niche that he earned sponsorships from Bauer, Gatorade, Adidas, SeatGeek, and the NHL itself.
3. Get in the advertising game.
While traditional advertising might be seen as disruptive in the middle of a gaming session, some brands have found success by offering unique experiences within games. KFC Philippines, for example, created a branded gaming experience and tied it to the physical world.
The brand saw an opportunity when “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” soared in popularity during 2020. KFC Philippines quickly launched its own virtual location within the game with a dining area, menus, and Colonel Sanders himself. Those who found the colonel within the game were treated to a code for a free bucket of chicken at any KFC location in the Philippines.
4. Think outside the box by making this space your own.
The best thing about the gaming industry is that it gives your brand the freedom to create your own experiences. But you don’t have to tap into the gaming industry to connect with gamers — you just need to find a way to tie gaming into your brand.
For instance, to appeal to Generation Z, F’real (a blend-it-yourself frozen beverage brand) created a branded mobile game that could be activated via QR codes on in-store purchases. The brand also partnered with popular TikTok creators to draw attention to the campaign and drive consumers to stores.
Keep Your Head in the Game
What’s next for your brand? Once you’ve educated yourself on what opportunities are available, work with your marketing team to determine your budget, strategy, and creative execution.
Who knows: You could make headlines like Burger King or Gucci! You just need to get into the game.
You want to get into the game — and get into the zone.