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Video games and livestreaming: the new frontier for brands

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Animal Crossing: New Horizons, a video game that became wildly popular during the lockdown, has also become a versatile promotional platform for different brands. KFC Philippines and their creative agency Ogilvy Philippines created a KFC Island accompanied with a real-life promo for a free bucket of chicken. Image via Ogilvy Asia

Louis Vuitton, the luxury fashion brand that has dressed A-list celebrities such as Jennifer Connelly and Emma Stone, started a string of collaborations with online game League of Legends by unveiling a new skin for character Qiyana in October last year. While the move initially prompted mixed feedback, it eventually bore great results.

A capsule clothing collection that fans could wear in real life, with most items costing thousands of dollars, sold out on Louis Vuitton’s European website within an hour. The fashion brand also amplified the prestige of the League of Legends World Championship by designing a bespoke travel trunk for the Summoner’s Cup. It was the first time they had done it for esports, having previously designed for the FIFA World Cup and National Basketball Association (NBA).

The video game and livestreaming industries are huge, rapidly growing markets with no signs of slowing down. Newzoo, a games market insights and analytics firm, projects that 2.7 billion gamers will spend $159.3 billion on games this year alone. Livestreaming platforms such as Twitch and YouTube Gaming continue to gain audiences as lockdowns force people to stay at home.

The communities that form these markets are diverse. Google and Niko Partners, a game market research company, found that there were 500 million female gamers in Asia in 2019. This number is expected to grow by 14.8% this year, outpacing the growth of gamers in general.

“It’s really important that you think about gaming as a very broad diaspora, and you think about the gaming community as diverse. You can engage different parts of that in different ways,” said Chris Stephenson, Asia Pacific head of strategy and planning for PHD Media, a communications planning and media buying network.

Other brands have also taken the plunge into video-game and livestreaming partnerships. The Porsche 99X electric car was unveiled in August 2019 through “Formula E Unlocked”, a video game that was streamed on and designed with Twitch, a livestreaming platform. Players took on the role of two drivers finding the new car in a facility, determining their actions by collectively choosing among preset options. The stunt engaged a wide audience, with almost a million players across its four-hour duration.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons, a video game that became wildly popular during the lockdown, has also become a versatile promotional platform for different brands. KFC Philippines and their creative agency Ogilvy Philippines created a KFC Island accompanied with a real-life promo for a free bucket of chicken. Meanwhile, the Getty Museum created an art generator that allows players to integrate museum art on their items, while the Monterey Bay Aquarium conducted virtual museum tours and dove into in-game waters to discuss marine life.

These executions may be intimidating for some brands, but for Mr. Stephenson, this is the very opportunity that they should be seizing. They should strive for more than just “hygienic” digital practices or measurements.

“Don’t fall into the trap of just because you’re doing digital, you think you’re therefore going to measure that in very middle- or lower-funnel terms, whether that’s through CPMs, or customer clicks, or conversions… There’s a place for that, but the big win in these communities is to engage in compelling, upper-funnel, brand-building, equity-building ideas. That’s what’s going to lock-in long-term ROI [return on investment] and that’s what we should set our course out to do,” he said.

As long as the brand has a grasp on and remains authentic to its identity, then these creative executions will merely amplify what their legacy communication has been doing. “Don’t think that you’ve got to rewrite the rules of your brand when you go into these platforms and communities. Be authentic, stay true to who you are… but ask yourself what you can bring to these platforms and what ideas can bridge the span between your brand and these amazing, engaged communities,” said Mr. Stephenson.

Mr. Stephenson was a panelist in All That Matters 2020, an online festival on Asia’s music, sports, gaming, media, and online entertainment sectors.

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