When online bank Ally sponsored an island in the video game “Animal Crossing” in 2020, its account openings increased by 320%. As you can imagine, advertising in video games represents a big opportunity for brands to get in front of a large, engaged audience, especially in hearing that in 2022, 54% of the US population were digital gamers.

As a result, advertisers are pouring billions into the gaming industry to sponsor in-game advertisements, streaming ads, and sponsorships, according to research and advisory firm Technavio.  

A true pioneer in this field is Pepsi who has been advertising in video games since 2008. According to Paul Mascali, the company’s head of esports and gaming, the brand “we work with our development partners to unlock in-game content and peripherals we offer back to the community”. 

Ally, on the other hand, doesn’t offer products as endemic to gaming as Pepsi, but its tactics are similar. “We’re trying to be additive to the gameplay,” said Beth Woodruff, a senior marketer at the bank who oversees brand strategy and gaming. The company’s “Animal Crossing” activation guaranteed the price of digital goods — namely turnips — that players could sell. There was however a hiccup, as gamers complained when Ally ran out of turnips, and had to activate more. But the brand isn’t panicking; “it gave us the opportunity to make it right,” Woodruff said. “So it’s being adaptive in that you don’t know everything about the space, and that’s okay. It won’t damage your brand, but you want to be in communication with them always to make sure their gameplay is enhanced.”

Brands across the board continue to stress the importance of influencer partnerships in the gaming field. Working with creators also helps brands stay relevant even as video game culture constantly evolves. 

“The space is changing so constantly, and what we’ve leaned into over the years is finding the right creators,” Lauryn McDonough senior marketing director at Mondelēz told Insider. The CPG just wrapped up its biggest video game campaign ever — Fruit Fight, which marketed four new flavours for Sour Patch Kids and involved a four-week tournament where NFL players, professional gamers, and amateurs to compete in a video game against each other. 

One of the biggest challenges brands face when advertising in video games is getting alignment across the company. 

Finally, many brands have expressed difficulty in pitching a marketing campaign within the gaming world. “Consistency is really important,” Mascali has expressed. “A lot of brands might be testing and learning and doing one-off things, but that’s not how you build a relationship.”

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