Gaming: The Next Frontier For Brand Activations

Chris WrenFebruary 18, 20203 min

The gaming industry is predicted to be worth $300 billion by 2025. In 2019, both Apple and Google launched gaming platforms (Apple Arcade and Stadia, respectfully) that are changing standards and increasing accessibility to a diverse set of games. Smart brands are taking notice, uncovering new ways to connect with people in formats that aren’t expected.

A JWT Intelligence report highlights some interesting cases, starting with gaming celebrities. A Fortnite megastar known as Ninja (real name Tyler Blevins) entered into a multi-year partnership with Adidas. While he regularly wears Adidas gear while streaming, his own branded Ninja jogger was launched at the end of last year. In China, Nike is the exclusive apparel and footwear partner for League of Legends Pro League players, tapping LPL player Uzi (real name Jian Zhao) to appear in a campaign.

Beauty brands are collaborating with female gamers. In March 2019, Fortnite and League of Legends streamer Pokimane (real name Imane Anys) released an eyeshadow palette in collaboration with makeup brand Winky Lux. Mac Cosmetics partnered with Tencent’s mobile game Honor of Kings to create a limited edition of lipsticks, which reportedly sold out within 24 hours. Even Louis Vuitton partnered with Riot Games to offer “prestige skins” for League of Legends champions – designed by Nicolas Ghesquière, artistic director of LV’s women’s collections.

Gaming And Brand Activations: Impossible To Ignore

Charlie Baillie, cofounder of esports media company Ampverse, shares, “Brands have historically been cautious when approaching gaming as it’s somewhat unknown. However, the scale at which talent is building audience—particularly mobile gamers—simply can’t be ignored now.” So powerful are these eSports celebrities that Ninja reportedly earned 20-30 million to switch from Amazon’s Twitch streaming platform to Microsoft’s Mixer.

While this is a flavor of influencer marketing, it’s much bigger than that. There’s skill and real competition in what gamers do. Like regular sports celebrities, eSport celebrities have plays and strategies that many aspiring gamers study and seek to emulate. For brands, this new frontier works in two ways: Finding special people to promote the brand and gain a way to reach a highly loyal and vibrant fan community. And find ways to make people feel special with custom avatars and promotions that bring the brand from the outside world into an entirely new experience.

But the bigger trend here is partnership. Just as brands are looking to partner with streaming providers to spotlight products (and workaround commercial-free streaming), they are also looking to reach audiences that might spend significant amounts of time in formats outside of OTT (over the top) streaming services like Hulu and Netflix.

This emerging trend should teach brands:

  • Know Your Audience Or Potential Audience. Niche communities, whether gamers or foodies, can represent huge potential for brands that want to take the time to learn, understand and connect. This is another reason diversity is so important. Surely, some of your own team members have unique interests outside of work. Take the time to learn what those are, and don’t be afraid to tap into those interests.
  • Be More Creative When Thinking About Activations. Who would have thought Louis Vuitton would collaborate to build “prestige skins” for League of Legends. But the partnership modernizes the brand in a way advertising cannot, and enables the brand to reach millions of people in a surprising and refreshing way.
  • Don’t Be Afraid Of Smaller Ideas. It doesn’t always have to be about a physical product, like shoes, lipstick or nail polish. There are plenty of ways to insert a brand into the digital world of gaming without being product placement.

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