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Gaming webinar part one: Levelling-up brand marketing strategies

Gaming webinar part one: Levelling-up brand marketing strategies

As CEO and Founder of a specialist technology PR agency, our very own Victoria Usher was ideally placed to co-host a recent Appetite Creative webinar entitled ‘How brands can level up their marketing strategies with gaming and esports.’

With the COVID-19 pandemic pushing the gaming sector into overdrive, the webinar explored the opportunities for brands to capitalise on the gaming boom and interact with growing audiences while they are highly engaged.

This post recaps the first section of the webinar, where Victoria spoke with Jon Hook, VP of Publishing at BoomBit, James Draper, CEO and Founder at Bidstack, and Anil Mistry, Head of Gaming at Endemol, about perceptions of advertising in the gaming sector. Part two will feature highlights from the second half of the webinar where Jeremy King, CEO of Festival of Media and M&M Global, spoke with Jenny Stanley, Founder and MD of Appetite Creative about how brands can benefit from gamification, as well as Oliver Weingarten, CEO and Founder of LDN UTD about brand activations in esports. 

Misconceptions around gaming

The discussion opened by looking at common misconceptions around brand activations within gaming. First there is an idea that brands can target a generic ‘gaming audience,’ but in reality that audience is highly segmented with vast differences across genres, territories and platforms. Targeting gamers is like targeting TV viewers or sports fans; it is far a very broad group so a more nuanced approach is required.

Along with this misconception comes the persistent stereotype that all gamers are teenage boys in their bedrooms playing in the dark. Although the gaming audience naturally skews towards younger age groups, and traditional shooter or role-playing games (RPGs) tend to appeal more to men, any consumer can be a gamer. Each brand has affinity with different audiences and if a game is created around a brand it will immediately attract that brand’s core fans, as long as it is available on an accessible platform that the group is used to engaging with, such as mobile.

A final misconception is that gaming is not a premium advertising environment when compared with TV or out-of-home (OOH), but this is beginning to change and brands are appreciating its value. Game developers now design games in the same way marketers design brand campaigns – ensuring they are a relevant match for the intended audience. Gamers are incredibly loyal to their favourite titles and platforms but are also very passionate and vocal when they don’t agree with something, so brands need to tune into the audience and ensure their activations add value to the overall gaming experience.    

The impact of COVID-19 on gaming

The pandemic has had a positive impact on the gaming industry, at least in the short term. With consumers spending more time at home and needing entertainment, new audiences are being introduced to gaming and existing audiences are engaging more frequently.

Gameplay has increased dramatically, particularly in the free-to-play and hyper-casual categories. Rather than the usual pattern of snackable game time during the week and peaks at weekends, the lockdown looked a lot like Christmas, with continuously high levels of engagement across the week. This boom inevitably had a positive impact on the volume of ad requests and ultimately ad revenues. It also woke up the advertising world and encouraged brands to consider gaming as an alternative to channels such as OOH and live sports.

But despite all the positives, the pandemic has inevitably raised challenges within the gaming industry. While games that were already live boomed, those that were in development often stalled with launch dates pushed back as developers tried to reorganise teams and implement new processes. It is possible console release dates later this year will also be delayed. And increases in gameplay didn’t necessarily translate directly into increased revenues as many advertisers hit the pause button, adversely impacting eCPMs.

The pandemic may also put additional strain on the gaming industry further down the line. With gamers playing for longer, and in greater density than before, gaming is getting more competitive and skill levels are increasing. Boredom and saturation will increase demand for new and different content which will place stress on the software side. On a positive note, these trends will drive innovation and creativity, pushing the gaming sector forward.

Brands smashing it in the gaming space

When panellists were asked to give examples of effective brand activations in gaming, responses covered the entire spectrum, from Chupa Chups’ non-too-subtle Zool sponsorship in the 1990s to the UK Government’s recent Stay Home Save Lives messaging which was natively displayed in games such as DiRT Rally 2.0. Entertainment and FMCG brands such as Unilever and Sony Mobile were recognised for their decision to embrace mobile at an early stage, and for using factors such as location and time of day to inform their creative rather than simply putting a TV commercial into a playable ad.

Panellists also discussed the value of brands realising they can be the game itself, rather than just part of the background. By fully taking their brand into the gaming space, they can develop much deeper relationships with consumers as well as reaching new audiences and driving new revenue streams. This works particularly well for TV show creators, who can use games to extend narratives and make viewers a part of the show. A Peaky Blinders video game will be released later this year – set between seasons four and five – to fully engage fans as well as attracting wider audiences by delivering new storylines and fresh perspectives. 

What’s next for gaming?

Panellists agreed the gaming industry will go from strength to strength in the coming years. With so many young people playing and watching games from such an early age it is already an important and integral part of society. Quality and innovation will increase further, especially with cloud gaming, and influencers in the gaming sector will become mainstream entertainers. While the rise of hyper-casual gaming was identified as a key trend for advertising last year, the rise of esports looks set to be the major trend of this year, and this was discussed in more detail during the second half of the webinar.

Look out for part two of this post to find out more about the opportunities for brands around gamification and esports. Alternatively, a recording of the webinar is available on YouTube or as a podcast in the Talking Giraffe series.

To find out more about the B2B PR services GingerMay offers to technology companies in the gaming and advertising sectors, please get in touch at hello@teamgingermay.com.

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