Video games have long been a popular escape from reality. All ages and demographics find value in connecting with friends, challenging yourself to beat new levels, and developing new skills.

But people are engaging in video games in a whole different way than they were 30 years ago. People don’t just play – they escape their physical lives into alternate universes where they can make virtual friends, start virtual businesses, and live virtual experiences.

The ‘escape from a physical life’ type behavior and thirst for that escape has only increased during the pandemic.

Nielsen found that 82% of global consumers played video games and watched game-related content at the height of COVID-19 lockdowns, with global gaming revenue exceeding 174.9 billion dollars in 2020. If you can properly leverage the space for your brand, you may be able to find some gold.

The rise of interactive gaming experiences

Gambling has traditionally been viewed as a niche category, but that’s no longer the case. According to the NPD Group 2020 Player Segmentation Report, 244 million Americans play video games. This represents around 3 in 4 people, an increase of 32 million since 2018. And gamers are playing more than ever: almost a third of them play more than 15 hours per week.

The game covers a lot of demographics

With games spanning so many demographics, the space is ripe for your own brand to take hold. Creating integrated, organic, non-intrusive brand awareness content is every marketer’s dream. And if you’ve already experienced the game yourself, give it a try! You will be happier, healthier, and faster. Your brand will benefit.

Brand integration

Remember the brand integration opportunities proposed by “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” in 2020? In the game, players could create personalized outfits from brands like Supreme and Gucci and decorate their homes with personalized artwork (sponsored by the Metropolitan Museum of Art).

In 2021, Burger King Spain used the editing tools of “NBA 2K21” to create a custom basketball court called La Cour du Menu. The downloadable short featured photos of popular menu items, with Burger King challenging players to make rigs 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: Recharge Your Business Battery

As developers create more brand integration opportunities, it will be critical to move around the play area and capitalize on its success. Musicians, politicians, bands, and other bands have already caught the video game marketing bandwagon, so you’d be remiss to ignore this phenomenon.

Run Sprints: your brand in the gaming industry

1. Start an esports campaign.

According to Newzoo Global Esports and Live Streaming Market Report, over 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 need to leverage your strengths.

Consider the power of Louis Vuitton fashion, which collaborated with Riot Games on the League of Legends World Championship. Not only did the brand create a personalized travel trophy case for champions, they also released branded skins and other digital assets for gamers.

2. Partner with influencers in the game.

Many game influencers on Twitch and YouTube have cultivated a number of very engaged subscribers over time. You can strategically partner with these creators to reach the right audience.

For example, Andre Telfer (aka Nasher) has built up its followers by playing the NHL video game series on its channels. He became so popular in the hockey niche that he got sponsorships from Bauer, Gatorade, Adidas, SeatGeek and the NHL itself.

3. Enter the advertising game.

While traditional advertising can be seen as disruptive in the middle of a gaming session, some brands have found success in delivering unique experiences within games. KFC Philippines, for example, created a branded gaming experience and linked it to the physical world.

The brand saw an opportunity when “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” gained popularity in 2020. KFC Philippines quickly launched its own virtual location in the game with a dining room, menus and Colonel Sanders himself. Those who found the Colonel in the game were given 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 the game into your brand.

For example, to appeal to Gen Z, F’real (a brand of do-it-yourself frozen drinks) created a branded mobile game which could be activated via QR codes on in-store purchases. The brand has also partnered with popular designers from TikTok to bring attention to the campaign and bring consumers to the stores.

Keep your head in the game

What’s the next step for your brand? Once you have educated yourself on what opportunities are available, work with your marketing team to determine your budget, strategy, and creative execution.

Who knows: you might be making headlines like Burger King or Gucci – better yet, win the video game decision of a lifetime!

You want to get into the game – and get into the zone.

Image Credit: Alexey Savchenko; unsplash; Thank you!

Jeff Snyder

Founder and Director of Inspiration at Inspira Marketing Group

Jeff Snyder is the Founder and Director of Inspiration at Inspira Marketing Group, a brand experience agency based in Norwalk, Connecticut and New York.

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