More and more it is becoming about the games. Not the ones on the field but the ones in your living room, on your handheld device, on your laptop. As marketers scramble more and more to engage young people in a setting where they congregate, they are becoming all about live gaming integration.
Earlier this year the Philadelphia Eagles announced a partnership to drop their birds into Angry Birds, something that probably won’t yield dollars but could make the brand a little more interesting to casual fans when they play the wildly popular game. We have seen the frenzy around Madden and college football games and more and more dollars are being pumped into finding ways to make sports games more realistic and integrated as live play continues.
This week there were two more sure signals that tradition is now trying to find more ways to grab the non-traditional sports fan. First, the Obama campaign announced that they will drop live ads into Electronic Arts games, including the new Madden NFL 13, in the key Electoral College-tilting states of Ohio, Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire and Virginia. The ads are aimed at encouraging the gaming demographic to take advantage of early voting in these states. The ads will try and engage a young, sometimes election agnostic fan, while they try and get their team into the End Zone. It is the second time the President has gone the gaming route. In 2008 his team tapped EA to run virtual signage ads looking to encourage early voting in states like Florida and North Carolina in 18 games, including Burnout Paradise and Need for Speed. The message is targeted, direct, and creates the perception that the campaign knows what the casual fan wants and knows where to reach him.
Then this week ESPN announced a partnership with the publisher of Assassin’s Creed and other titles to develop new content for their ESPN Sports Connection. It is the first but not the last attempt The “Worldwide Leader” will make into engaging young people obsessed with console gaming. What does it mean? Those playing non-traditional sports games will be able to pull in ESPN-related content if they choose, and Ubisoft can build out elements that are attached to the ESPN brand in a series of console games already in production. The ESPN brand is now served up to younger audiences who may not be watching “SportsCenter” but will find ESPN related content where they are engaging in activity…in their gaming environment.
What’s the reason for going more to the gamers whether you are a mega-brand or running for office? Simple. The players are engaged, loyal and want whoever is interested in a dialogue to understand their interests and where they congregate, and today that congregation is as much in a virtual online live world than it is at a live actual event like a game or a concert. That virtual engagement also transcends physical boundaries and allows the message to be targeted directly to thousands at the well placed push of a button. It is a smart move for both ESPN and the Obama campaign, two leaders in fishing where the fish are, especially the younger ones.