The past weekend during NFL broadcasts, fans were treated to the latest preview edition of the mega-popular video game Call of Duty. However instead of seeing more shots of shoot em up action, we saw Jonah Hill, Sam Worthington, and even a little Dwight Howard mixed into the live action in the game? Many were waiting for the info on the new movie, but what they got instead was yet another carefully placed foray of real stars and athletes into the digital world.
Why? Because as much as we see live sports being king for content and exposure, the mix of gaming for brands to draw casual fans on a global basis is becoming even bigger. The live online gaming world now gives marketers, and a growing number of personalities, direct access to the younger demo live team sports is trying to regain and energize. On the other side, mainstream sports events still draw millions in a different demo, and the convergence of those two worlds for brands is now becoming real. Dwight Howard today in a commercial of live action for a video game will soon be followed by Howard or another NBA star being dropped into a live action game, not as a guest, but with his real time image playing against you, for a price, in an EA game down the line. Guest appearances by athletes or stars in non-traditional video games will also be part of the mix, as the world of sports and entertainment tries to assimilate with young gamers who may not always follow the latest movie or TV show or NHL game. It provides access to the demo directly in their world, like never before.
For brands, the mixing of the live event and the live gaming experience will also be a boon, with promotions targeted directly to players and maybe tied to a large payoff like meeting a star virtually and then in person. The two worlds, the gaming world and the world of sports games, have mutually co-existed to this point, but the next steps will be about convergence and growing the market to get the biggest ROI, and Sunday’s Call of Duty mix was just the next step to linking the two worlds seamlessly. It will make gamers out of casual sports fans and bring the stars of sport into the lives of those who were not overly interested before. The best is yet to come.