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Gaming webinar part two: gamification and esports opportunities

Gaming webinar part two: gamification and esports opportunities

Our CEO and Founder Victoria Usher recently co-hosted an 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 summarises 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. 

Missed part one? No problem; there’s still time to go back and catch up here before diving into the many ways gaming can be harnessed for diverse gains.

How brands can benefit from gamification

Brands can use gamification to meet a variety of objectives beyond just driving awareness or product sales. For many, gamification provides a valuable opportunity to gather first-party data at a time when tighter privacy regulations and changes around third-party cookies are making it more difficult to gain a deep understanding of their customer base. Meanwhile, some companies are even using gamification for recruitment, allowing them to reach a wider and more diverse applicant pool. Gamification provides a fun and engaging way to connect with people, whatever the purpose of that connection.

The key for brands looking to benefit from gamification is to keep their activations simple and relevant, taking inspiration from successful games such as Angry Birds or Candy Crush to engage users in a way that works for them. For instance, Appetite Creative worked with Starbucks on an activation that tapped into the popular bottle flipping trend by creating a coffee cup to flip, enabling users to choose their favourite flavour, and rewarding them with a discount voucher when they were successful.

Of course, it almost goes without saying that simply adding a logo to games isn’t enough; brands really need to put thought into their activations. Just like the Boursin virtual reality experience, or McDonalds’ augmented reality advent calendar, gamification should be used in an entertaining way that aligns with their values and drives positive user experiences. And the same goes for other implementations. Publishers can also use gamification to connect more deeply with their audiences, as long as they focus on making games truly enjoyable; be that via Tinder-style personality tests, bubble popping, or Temple Run type games. 

Brand activations in esports

For many brands the first question to answer about esports is what sets it apart from the wider gaming industry? The simple answer is that esports is competitive gaming. Rather than two friends playing against each other at home — which would be casual gaming — esports consists of organised competitions, often with large audiences and prize money. Each title has its own ecosystem with sanctioned competitions where esports athletes are trying to make a profession out of gaming. As a separate segment of esports, there are also influencers who aren’t always elite players but do attract vast numbers of eyeballs.

It’s also important to note that the stigma of gaming no longer applies and esports can be a genuine career option.  Esports athletes aren’t sitting for hours a day eating buckets of fried food, they are trained in diet and nutrition. F1 Esports Series double world champion Brendan Leigh spends up to two hours a day in the gym before training in car simulators. He has lost 25kg since becoming world champion and believes physical fitness maintains mental fitness.

The prominence of esports has increased significantly during the COVID-19 lockdown, particularly around sports simulation — with everyone from Formula 1 to the Premier League getting involved. Brands are seeing a huge opportunity to reach Gen Z audiences who are difficult to access via more traditional marketing mechanisms. Kia, for instance is an official sponsor of League of Legends European Championship (LEC) because the brand knows esports fans are the car buyers of the future.

But brands need to engage these audiences in an authentic way. Esports fans are likely to be digitally savvy, are probably blocking ads, and want their content delivered in bitesize form. Consequently, brands need to be innovative and potentially compromise on what they would usually do in the sports sector to engage older demographics. DHL, for instance, has had exceptional success with its sponsorship of Dota 2 tournament ESL One — to the point where fans can be heard chanting the brand’s name around the main arena — which is largely credited to its authentic storytelling and entertaining esports memes.

Before starting out in esports brands need to be clear about what they are trying to achieve. Firstly, they need to consider their entry point. A grassroots organisation such as LDN UNTD that is using esports for social purpose has plenty of affordable opportunities and is agile enough to adapt to brand needs; allowing them to test a variety of activations to see what works. But it won’t necessarily have the traction and following of a global entity like Fnatic, which will be a far more expensive proposition. The second core consideration is the title a brand wants to work with. There is a huge difference between FIFA and Counter Strike, for example, and this decision will naturally be impacted by target market and brand values.

Additionally, the opportunity to unite esports with social responsibility also shouldn’t be overlooked. LDN UTD, for instance, is hosting a United Against Racism (UAR) open competition across three titles to provide a platform for marginalised voices and to raise the profile of the racism issue in the esports space. Brands can take these opportunities and work with the esports industry to address vital social issues.

The global esports audience is already approaching 500 million, according to the latest figures from Newzoo, and is expected to reach almost 650 million by 2023, meaning esports is destined to be an integral element of brand marketing strategies in the future.

If you’d like to know more about perceptions of advertising in the gaming sector, check out part one of this post, which 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. Alternatively a full recording of the webinar is available on YouTube or as a podcast in the Talking Giraffe series.

You can also contact us at hello@teamgingermay.com to find out more about the services we offer to businesses within the gaming industry.

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