The deal is great for both Zynga and 7-11. The retail chain is hoping to capitalize on the millions and millions of players that Zynga has access to, and the game developer is looking to introduce its titles to new players who may not have heard of their Facebook games -- either to simply shore up its commanding lead in the world of social games, or even to potentially build awareness for a move to other platforms.
Press reports on the deal make it seem as if this is the first sort of game/brand cross-promotional deal out there, but the truth is that brands -- especially those trying to reach a younger audience -- have been partnering with games for years, and offering in-game swag to people who will buy their products. Dr. Pepper is a notable recent player, having offered downloadable content for both "Mass Effect 2" and "Battlefield: Bad Company" earlier this year in return for the purchase of a bottle of Dr. Pepper -- or several, depending on how lucky you are.
The key concept at play in both examples is value exchange. Zynga, 7-11, and Dr. Pepper all understand that the attention of their target audience is much in demand, and traditional cross-promotional deals simply can't grab attention as they used to. By offering their audience tangible rewards, these brands are successfully breaking through the clutter to earn consumer attention.