Through a deal with global interactive games marketer Electronics Arts Inc. (EA), the Dunkin' Donuts brand/ products are being integrated into EA's just-launching The Sims Social Facebook game.
Dunkin' will be the exclusive restaurant-category brand featured in the game for at least six months, and Dunkin' Brands VP consumer engagement Dan Saia tells Marketing Daily that Dunkin' expects a continued presence in which new Dunkin' features and products will be introduced in the game more or less in parallel with Dunkin's promotional/product launch calendar.
This is EA's first social media-based game under The Sims brand. EA, which last year reported GAPP net revenue of $3.6 billion, has more than 100 million registered users of its games, which also include franchises such as Madden NFL, FIFA Soccer, Need for Speed, Battlefield and Mass Effect, on platforms spanning online services and packaged goods for Net-connected game consoles, personal computers, mobile phones and tablets.
The Sims Social Facebook game emerges players in a virtual world where they engage in activities such as customizing their homes in a variety of styles, interacting in helpful (or mischievous) ways with neighbors, and acting out secret-wish careers and adventures.
The Dunkin' brand is extensively integrated in the game. Players can "gift" one virtual cup of coffee and one food item to their Facebook friends each month. Players can opt to "consume" these menu items to get a "boost" (à la Dunkin' coffee's boost effect) or advance themselves within the game. Players also can collect featured virtual Dunkin' products that unlock when players' characters work at home and socialize with friends. In addition, players who choose to visit and "like" the Dunkin's Facebook page receive two bonus items to display in their Sims homes. One of these is a Dunkin'-branded beach chair that features a custom animation of the player's Sim character relaxing and enjoying a Dunkin' coffee.
Dunkin', which has been aggressive about engaging consumers through social media and Facebook in particular (it currently has more than 3.9 million Facebook likes), views the game integration as an important opportunity to form relationships with new fans and further bond with existing ones, says Saia. The game will complement other nontraditional and traditional media efforts by building an ongoing dialogue with "the young -- and the young at heart," he says.
"This isn't just a typical product placement," adds Saia, as the Dunkin' products/elements are integrated in ways that reflect how consumers interact with the brand in the real world. Meaning that the Sims characters, like their real-world counterparts, will be using Dunkin' coffee and other products to "get them running in the morning and keep them running throughout the day" (the brand's core positioning).
How big is the opportunity? According to EA corporate communications manager Denny Chiu, before the game's official launch today (it's been live in beta mode), The Sims Social game's Facebook page had already attracted 4 million active users.
As a global brand, Dunkin' will be making sure to include in the game only brand products/elements available in all of its markets -- coffee and pastries, for example, says Saia. (At launch, the game is available in five languages, notes EA's Chiu.)
Dunkin' will of course provide links to and promote the game on its own Facebook page. In addition, while there will be no dedicated ad campaign, the game will be promoted on Dunkin's Web site, and through the brand's email opt-in database, according to Saia. Not surprisingly, Chiu confirms that EA is making major investments in marketing to support The Sims Social launch.
EA will be announcing additional brand sponsors for the game, in categories outside restaurants, Chiu reports.