Strategic Advertising Partnerships

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Brands Partner With NBA To Create Innovative Gaming Activations

April 8, 2021 Sarah Cavill

As March Madness drew to a close, many basketball fans inevitably turned back to the NBA, with playoffs set to begin May 22. The full-speed ahead re-emergence of professional sports, after a very different 2020 that saw many leagues play abbreviated seasons, has many brands looking for opportunities to capitalize on fan excitement. Burger King and Mountain Dew are hoping to reach fans with innovative gaming partnerships that leverage the growth of console and mobile gaming over the last year. By tapping into heads-down gamers and consumers who enjoy casual mobile gaming, brands and advertisers can reach users that are typically ad-averse with fun, engaging partnerships and activations. 

Burger King Leverages Popularity Of Gaming In New Promotion

Burger King nba

A recent activation between Burger King Spain and NBA 2K21, a basketball simulation video game, lets gamers try different shots from “the menu court” for a chance to win several popular Burger King menu items. The bigger and better the meal item, the more complicated the shot. “Players who complete a shot from an item marker can post a video to Twitter tagging Burger King and NBA2K with the hashtag #BKMenuCourt to redeem the real-world equivalent of the product,” reported Peter Adams for Marketing Dive. Video game usage was way up in 2020, with Sony's Game & Network Services segment seeing “revenue increased 40% [year over year] to 883.2 billion yen ($8.4 billion), partly driven by PS5 sales.” 

Digital activations that integrate brand promotions and partnerships allow brands to capture the attention of gamers who aren’t watching linear TV, but are spending hours and hours on gaming platforms and devices. Brands are increasingly trying different ways to reach gamers with less intrusive, but still effective, advertising. DigiDay reports, “Branded characters. One-off events. Programmatic ads. Marketers are finding more ways to get their brands into games — big picture, gaming has gone mainstream. And, while [gaming is] still somewhat under the radar for brand marketers, it’s becoming one of the largest and fastest-growing forms of media for the young, affluent, ad-averse people they’re keen to reach.”

Mobile Game From Mountain Dew Challenges Fans To Shoot With Pelicans Star Zion Williamson

A new mobile game from Mountain Dew lets players use their phones to help NBA star Zion Williamson shoot the ball. In the game called  “Zion Shoots. You Score.” players “control a digital avatar of Williamson whose shots are guided by swiping a smartphone screen or tilting a smartphone with motion controls enabled. The stronger the swipe or tilt, the harder Williamson shoots the ball, with a meter reading the shot's power level on the side of the screen,” reported Adams for Marketing Dive. The game was created in collaboration with New Orleans Pelicans’ star Williamson, who has a five-year endorsement deal with Pepsi-owned Mountain Dew. 

“Zion Shoots. You Score.”  is available at MTNDew.live through May 25, and, while users can play the game as guests, signing up through social media accounts is encouraged, offering Mountain Dew future engagement opportunities with users. The mobile game can also be accessed by scanning point-of-sale QR codes at certain store locations that, when scanned, activate the game for users. “People are naturally used to utilizing QR codes, they’re used to having their phones in their hands and they’re used to engaging them. Simplicity was the key here,” said Chauncey Hamlett, vice president and chief marketing officer for PepsiCo Beverages North America’s South Division. Casual gaming on mobile is growing in popularity, with mobile games generating $86.3 billion in revenues last year. And, overall, mobile remains a critical touchpoint for advertisers looking to reach younger audiences. “Authenticity is key here, and this kind of mobile-forward approach is something that we love about [Zion Shoots. You Score.],” added Hamlett.

Multichannel strategies that include gaming and strategic partnerships can help brands access hard to reach audiences. For brands, gaming and gamified activations that align with ecommerce strategies and include promotions and targeted advertising, are likely to play a major part in future digital marketing campaigns and technology strategies. This is particularly true at a time when personalization is so important to younger consumers and brands are looking to make connections and build loyalty. Gaming allows consumers to feel they are part of the action, increasing affinity for brands and allowing for future outreach and engagement.

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About the Author

Sarah Cavill

With more than 20 years of writing, editing and reporting experience, Sarah Cavill brings to Digital Media Solutions (DMS) a fine-tuned and diverse set of skills. Her work has been featured in notable publications including The Daily Muse, CBS Local, Techlicious and Glamour magazine. Sarah has a passion for current events and the deep-dive research that goes into the content development and brand identity of DMS Insights. In her role as Associate Content Manager, Sarah contributes to the pitching, researching and writing of multiple stories published each week surrounding digital and performance marketing innovations in pop culture, news, social media, branding and advertising.

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