When talking about marketing in gaming and esports, “authenticity” is often emphasized, while “logo slapping” is heavily criticized.
What exactly does “authenticity” look like to gamers, and how are brands getting it right?
To me, the biggest two aspects of authenticity to gamers are interactivity and creativity within the gaming ecosystem.
Why those two things?
Gaming is one of the most interactive entertainment spaces out there -- if not the most.
Gamers come from an age of hyper-interactivity, where they spam Twitch chats, donate to their favorite streamers and invest tons of money into console and PC rigs, all with ease.
Traditional forms of advertisement don’t exist inside of non-mobile video games, but what do exist are loads of microtransactions that enable players to buy new looks, animations, powers, and more for their favorite characters.
What gets people to buy them is that “cool” factor -- knowing that they can use those items in-game, that all the content directly interacts with their gameplay. The advertising approach to gamers, then, has to keep in mind that same interactivity.
For example, DHL, the global German parcel service, partnered with a number of gaming equipment companies and ESL Gaming to provide a multi-year partnership at ESL’s tournaments.
At a nearly full house event at Barclays in 2019, which I attended, a popular streamer decked out in DHL gear walked out with a DHL package and randomly selected two audience members to compete against each other in a box building contest to win the DHL package full of gamer goods.
Aside from the direct competitive and interactive element, DHL also provided signs for the audience to write custom messages on and hold up during the event.
At first, it’s hard to imagine a parcel service integrating well with gaming, but through DHL’s example it’s easier to see how the interactivity they utilized to reward gamers at the event led to a clever and engaging partnership.
Similarly, creativity is key for brands that don’t necessarily fit into gaming at first glance. Brands like Logitech, Samsung and Intel are obvious parts of the gaming ecosystem since they make a lot of the tech that powers or enhances it.
For non-endemic brands, the advertising approach has to show gamers why that brand should be a part of gaming, and to do that effectively requires good creativity -- whether that is strong creative that utilizes gaming assets in its messaging, or showcases a way that gamers themselves would use their product.
Let’s look at one of my favorite examples of both creativity and interactivity -- Louis Vuitton and League of Legends.
Last year, Louis Vuitton and League of Legends entered a multi-year partnership, which included a custom LV trophy case for the World Championship trophy, in-game customization purchasables, and a League of Legends-inspired LV clothing line. Why does this satisfy the criteria above?
First, LV created unique products for the League of Legends community, showcasing both their creativity and interactivity. For those who can really afford LV clothing, they had a high-priced, high-fashion clothing line connected with the game that sold out incredibly fast, including a $3,000 watch.
For those who would rather spend $20 and feel like they were repping LV in some way or another, they were able to buy an in-game customization for some of their favorite characters, which added the famous LV symbols to some animations within the game.
To access this partnership, gamers had multiple different points of entry, from the $20 skins to the high-end clothing, it resulted in the creation of never-before-seen assets between League of Legends and Louis Vuitton.
More recently, we have seen brands like Herman Miller market gamer-focused ergonomic chairs, and pixelated and vibrantly colored gamer shoes by Nike.
At first glance, no one would expect brands like Louis Vuitton or DHL to be connected with the gaming space. But now, through cleverly designed partnerships, LV and DHL have cemented themselves within gaming.
These brands and others have taken the time to rework their marketing strategies and have created unique products, ads, and experiences to appeal to gaming audiences authentically.