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Ready player one: How brands can make that valuable connection with gamers

The gaming industry in Ireland is on the rise, with online gaming alone worth €536m. So why aren’t advertisers taking advantage of this?

Wherever you find big audiences, you’ll find advertisers clamouring to reach them. This is a universal rule of thumb for the sales world.

That’s why the world of gaming is such a fascinating space to explore. But though it is estimated that more two million people in Ireland are engaged in gaming, few brands have included it as a line item on their media plans.

This is a missed opportunity because the gaming industry is rapidly growing. According to SuperData Research, in 2020 the global gaming industry was valued at a whopping $159 billion (€144.2 billion). This includes revenue from console games, PC games, mobile games, and esports.

To put that number in perspective, the music industry was valued at $19.1 billion, and the movie industry was valued at $41.7 billion during the same period.

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In other words, the gaming industry is 2.6 times larger than movies and music combined. So why are so few brands taking advantage of this opportunity to connect with gamers? It’s time for businesses to start paying attention to the power of gaming as a marketing channel.

As the world continues to shift towards digital entertainment, gaming has become a favourite leisure activity across the world, led by Gen Z and millennials. This presents an opportunity for Irish brands to reach younger audiences that may be difficult to target through traditional advertising methods.

Gaming provides a unique platform that allows brands to connect with consumers on a deeper level and create lasting relationships. Through the engagement and accessibility of gaming platforms, brands can leverage the potential of gaming to reach a more extensive and diverse audience and create memorable experiences that conventional advertising cannot match.

The gaming industry in Ireland is on the rise, with online gaming alone worth €536 million. Esports is one area of the gaming industry that is gaining momentum in Ireland, with the Irish esports industry growing by 18 per cent each year, and the country becoming a hub for esports events.

Irish brands can sponsor these events and connect with a highly engaged audience. Gaming as a whole is becoming more popular in Ireland, with mobile gaming being a particular favourite among younger generations.

Brands can take advantage of this trend by creating in-game advertising, sponsoring mobile gaming events, or partnering with popular mobile games. Irish brands can learn from successful examples such as US fast food chain Wendy’s, streetwear brand Vans and snack company Pringles, all of which used gaming to reach younger audiences and create memorable experiences.

Wendy’s and creative agency VMLY&R used Fortnite to create a custom map in the game and encouraged players to participate in a scavenger hunt, with the winner receiving a prize. The campaign was successful, with more than 200,000 unique players participating in the event.

Vans also utilised the popular gaming platform Roblox to promote its shoes to a younger demographic by creating a virtual shoe store within the game and allowing players to customise their avatars with Vans products. This campaign was a hit, with millions of players engaging with the brand within Roblox.

Pringles broke the rules of gaming and advertising by creating a custom level within a popular mobile game called Zombie Tsunami. The level was a unique and entertaining experience that allowed players to interact with Pringles products in a fun and memorable way.

Brands can host virtual events within games or sponsor existing ones to engage with gamers and build relationships with the gaming community

Gaming meets not just our entertainment needs but also our social and emotional needs. According to a survey by Statista, in the video games market, the number of users in Ireland is expected to reach 1.4 million by 2025, with the average revenue per user at $187.45.

Moreover, close to 60 per cent of US gamers say playing games helped them through a difficult time, while about half say playing games helped them stay connected to other people. As the world moves towards a digital future, the metaverse promises to bring together the virtual and real worlds. With such a promising future, it’s clear that the gaming industry will continue to thrive, and brands that get in early will have a unique opportunity to reach a growing and engaged audience.

How can brands break through to gamers? There are plenty of different entry points at all levels of marketing. Brands can sponsor esports tournaments, teams, or players to gain visibility and recognition within the gaming community. This can be a great way to establish a brand’s presence in the gaming industry, especially if it is new to the market.

Alternatively, brands can create their own gaming experiences, on platforms such as Roblox, by partnering with game developers to create custom game modes, skins or characters that feature their brand.

Influencer marketing can be a powerful tool, as brands collaborate with popular gaming influencers to promote their products or services to their audience. This approach can be highly effective in building brand awareness and driving sales, especially if the influencer has a large and engaged following.

Brands can host virtual events within games or sponsor existing ones to engage with gamers and build relationships with the gaming community. This can be an excellent way to showcase new products or services and gather feedback from players.

The gaming industry provides an excellent platform for Irish brands to reach diverse and engaged audiences, particularly younger generations who may be difficult to target through traditional advertising methods. Brands can take advantage of the growing popularity of gaming by creating in-game advertising, sponsoring mobile gaming events or partnering with popular mobile games. Successful examples such as Wendy’s, Vans, and Pringles have already demonstrated the potential of gaming as an advertising platform. Gamification of brands and businesses is only going one way, and Irish brands should consider incorporating gaming into their marketing strategies to create lasting relationships with consumers and reach new and diverse audiences.

The time to test and learn is now; experiment with gaming unities before it becomes a cluttered space and your competitors have all jumped in. First-mover advantage is key; testing today means you can better understand the gaming sphere by the time your competitors are in test-and-learn phase.

Three key considerations to factor in to campaigns

1. Research how, where and when your target audience engages in gaming, to create platform-specific content for gamers and the gaming environment.

2. Focus on creating a genuine value exchange between you and your target audience – this includes not interrupting their gaming experience.

3. Think about creating experiences, not just ad placements.

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