In-game advertising: how eSports are shaping digital marketing

How Epic Games and Riot Games are playing a key role to the future of marketing, through the development of brand collabs.

On April 29th was officially launched the collab between the Brazilian sandals brand Havaianas and the Battle Royale multiplayer Fortnite. The game, released in 2017 by Epic Games, was an instant success and entertains millions of fans worldwide. the game is part of the eSports category, hosting one of the most popular tournaments globally.

it is not the first time that the company has announced partnerships with brands or personalities. In 2020, Fortnite released a Battle Pass in collab featuring Marvel Cinematic Universe. The new DLC was an instant success: fans have become even more connected to the game and, to this day, the legendary character Thanos is widely commented on and discussed.

In 2021, Fortnite already created a trend when announced a partnership with the Brazilian soccer player and worldwide icon, Neymar. Like Thanos, it is necessary to unlock the character, which forces players to stay connected for hours. This is a common tactic in games, especially online games that receive constant updates. Unlike console games, which rarely receive VFX or package updates, esports or multiplayer games are constantly updated, ranging from weekly to monthly.

This means that the companies that develop these games need to designate a team to carry out constant field research, based on the experience and gameplay of the players. This is done with the objective of agile decision-making, paying special attention to the needs of each individual, whether in the repair of bugs or just the launch of new themes.

Therefore, because of this constant update, games like League of Legends, Fortnite, Free Fire, among many others, have a greater possibility of varying marketing strategies. In the past, in-game advertising was only performed after launch, through the simulation of traditional media in the game itself. Now, there are musical collaborations, personalized branding in and out of the game, and even content monetization.

An excellent example of partnership was the 2019 Louis Vuitton's collab with League of Legends, in which, under the direction of Nicolas Ghesquière, in-game customization designs were created for the character Qyiana. It was the first time that a brand of this size entered the Esports universe, popularizing Louis Vuitton within entertainment focused on generation Z and millennials.

Fortnite also performed an unprecedented action in partnership with rapper Travis Scott, in an event entitled Astronomical Concert. The online concert broke a worldwide record after the audience reached 13 million users. To date, there has been no show with more individuals watching simultaneously.

Travis Scott’s Astronomical Concert inside Fortnite Platform

The Collab Havaianas x Fortnite

the most recent release to date is between Fortnite and Havaianas. The new DLC of the game has the presence of an island, called Summer Island, in which players can enjoy the most diverse summer entertainments. In turn, Havaianas launched a collection inspired by the game, containing illustrations of extremely popular elements, such as the unicorn llama pick.

It is the first time that a brand outside the United States collaborates with the game. The tendency is that, eventually, brands begin to migrate to this type of platform, using interactive devices to promote and popularize their products. Interestingly, these new in-gaming strategies closely resemble advergaming.

For its part, Advergame is the creation of copyright games by brands to promote their products and raise brand awareness. However, and when we look at the Havaianas map, completely new and developed with the help of its own designers and programmers, providing completely authoritative forms of entertainment, it is natural to notice a fusion between in-gaming and advergaming.

Havaianas started as a small store in Rio de Janeiro and has become one of the most profitable and popular global brands when it comes to summer footwear. It is interesting when we analyze the advertisements of Havaianas: they started out as simple disclosure in print media, then migrated to advertisements highly broadcast on Brazilian televisions, then adapted to social networks, and now has the most recent campaign to partner with Fortnite.

This is a trend followed not only by Havaianas but any brand that intends to keep up to date with digital marketing trends — key to the future — are eventually migrating to increase interactivity with its audience. And what is the greatest form of interactivity if not through eSports and online games?

The KD/A Strategy

Debuting in 2018 and making their first comeback in 2020, the kpop group KD/A is considered one of the greatest marketing strategies in the history of League of Legends. Initially launched as a line of unique skins, the group received so much attention and was so successful that a musical comeback and full album was released.

It is not initially a partnership between brand and game, it was completely developed by the team at Riot Games. However, it was thanks to the right element, at the right time, that endless possibilities opened up for the game.

With the rise of Asian culture, especially through the kpop music industry, a new opportunity had opened up for Riot Games. The team initially faced numerous creative difficulties, as they were not familiar with the Korean universe. After numerous obstacles, KD/A was finally launched and became an instant success.

Through this group, composed of 4 characters from the game itself — Ahri, Akali, Evelynn, and Kai’sa — Riot managed to monetize several products. The collaboration with several female artists from all over the world, both in 2018 and, mainly, in 2020, attracted the attention of individual fanbases. Imagine you gather a legion of fans from different artists in one piece: there are so many opportunities for monetization and influence.

Furthermore, while KD/A is not the first group entirely made up of digital personas — just remember Japan’s pioneer Hatsune Miku — it is the most successful all-digital group in history. It was ranked top 5 on Billboard album charts in 2020 and was chosen as one of the top 25 pop albums on the same website.

As if that weren’t enough, the virtual idols have become fashion icons, appearing in magazines like Elle. The partnership also includes a fifth member, Seraphine, of Chinese nationality, further expanding the range of Riot Games’ influence.

There was no need to use real influencers to create digital icons. Through the infinite performance potential of its own champions, the company was able to monetize the 5 personalities, inserting itself in markets that previously barely interacted with digital games.

Why focus on Generation Z?

All of these digital marketing strategies carried out by major brands, in conjunction with game companies, have one main focus: to attract the attention of Generation Z. Born between 1995 and 2010, young generation Z, unlike their parents, no longer watch TV or consume mass media as often as their predecessors.

In turn, this generation is much more focused on the digital medium, especially on social networks, and through interactive media such as digital games. It is estimated that 54% of Generation Z have an interest in digital games — mobile, console, or PC — against 45% of Millennials. The trend is to increase more and more, especially with the emergence of the Alpha generation, who are already born children completely immersed in this digital environment. Especially after the pandemic, there was an increase of up to 80% in daily game downloads in countries like China, the center of the global economy.

Global gaming revenue reached $ 152.1 billion in 2019, an exponential growth for the time. Together, the trend is to increase, especially if we consider that purchasing power is gradually migrating to Generation Z, which is now entering the labor market and gaining space in consumption.

Talking a little about the profile of Generation Z young people, they are pragmatic and cherish individual decisions, demand speed and agility, in addition to being extremely impatient and multifocal. They are the perfect audience for the gaming world, which is already drawing a lot of attention from product or service companies in recent years.

Therefore, the moment could not be more opportune: combining entertainment with an advertising campaign that causes high impact, brand awareness, and increased revenue in a perfect setting, such as, for example, an interactive Summer Island, is the recipe for marketing strategies. accurate digital marketing of the future.

The future of digital marketing lies in the gaming world and those developers will probably surprise us each day. There are endless possibilities for the virtual world!

Hi! I’m Nathalia, but you can call me Thalia. I’m a Marketing and Advertising student based in Brazil. Follow me for weekly doses of thoughtfulness.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store