In-game advertising has become one of the hottest ways for brands to genuinely connect with younger gamers that spend hours grinding games or watching esports tournaments. From banners on the Rift during a League of Legends match to skins in Fortnite, here’s how in-game advertising has evolved over the years.
Oftentimes, marketing experts will label gamers as some of the hardest to market to. Why? Gamers can smell fakeness, cringe, and inauthenticity from miles away. To appeal to this specific demographic, non-endemic brands have become quite creative in an attempt to genuinely integrate themselves into gaming culture. One way is through in-game advertising.
This is a powerful way to make an impact with a very important group of potential consumers. Here are some of the most successful examples of in-game advertising done right.
League of Legends
Riot Games has a long-time partnership with Honda, often focused on League of Legends’s competitive side. In 2020, the two collaborated on a very genius way to advertise Honda during the LCS: Banners on Summoner’s Rift.
The banners were visible to the audience during matches but players couldn’t see them, limiting distractions. These in-game banners have been implemented into other official League of Legends tournaments in other regions, proving their success.
Instead of intrusive segments between matches or boring advertisements, Honda was able to have its name within the game itself without disrupting the LCS in any way. It also was reminiscent of seeing banners in a traditional sports arena, making it pretty entertaining to see.
In more recent years, League of Legends has also received exclusive skins sponsored by brands like Louis-Vuitton. This was yet another way to easily integrate brands into the MOBA’s gameplay without shoving any messaging in gamers’ faces.
“We want to think about what’s going to really resonate with our players — how can we make that make sense with the player experience, with the game experience,” said Riot Games vp and head of games publishing Sarah Schutz. “We look for partners where we can really co-create something together, so it’s not transactional. Instead, we’re like, ‘What new experience could we create together?’”
Psyonix’s car-soccer hybrid game has been a haven for brands looking to appeal to gamers with in-game advertising. Similar to sports cars on a big race day, brands can pay to have their logo made into an exclusive skin for various car models within Rocket League.
One of the most recent was PUMA, an athletic shoe brand that created on-field kits for Rocket League’s Octane and Fennec cars. The kits were available from August 24 to September 5 this year, making them exclusive and desirable to gamers who want to have every special skin.
One of the pioneers of in-game advertising, Fortnite is known for its colorful skins and dynamic gameplay. But it’s also known for its crazy and chaotic crossovers with major movies, television shows, celebrities, and other big brands outside of Fortnite.
Fortnite will often collaborate with well-known TV series and other popular IPs to create in-game events and skins usually around the time of a new season coming out or a movie’s release date. Allowing gamers to compete in the The Upside Down or run around the map as Naruto has seamlessly integrated brands into the everyday lives and activities of this demographic. Being able to experience a branded event first-hand has made gamers feel a lot more connected to that IP than just seeing an ad.
Fortnite has recently gone above and beyond events and skins. With its Creative Mode, Fortnite has allowed brands to create entire mini-games and locations. Ferrari, TIME Magazine, and more have created Fortnite experiences for gamers.
Some of the biggest competitive games have collaborated with non-endemic brands to create in-game advertisements that appeal to gamers to create awareness and conversion. This is one of many options for brands that want to get involved in the esports industry.
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