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How To Activate in Gaming For Brands

Greg Carroll, VP Global Revenue, Activision Blizzard Media

Greg Carroll, VP Global Revenue, Activision Blizzard Media

January 18, 2024

10 minute read

Gaming's role as the biggest entertainment platform by revenue—at $184B annually—is undeniable, making it impossible for advertisers and brands to ignore (Source: NewZoo, Global Games Market Report, 2023). We in the advertising industry find ourselves drawn to gaming’s global cultural relevance, immersive engagement, and ability to reach diverse audiences. It’s become more important that brands understand gamers, their experiences, and how to involve themselves in a culturally impactful manner.

At Activision Blizzard Media, we frequently find ourselves asked by brands to address the 'what' and 'how' of marketing in gaming. “How do we leverage gaming? How do we do it in a way that’s authentic to our brand and creates positive experiences for  our customers?” 

If you’re thinking of entering gaming for your next campaign now or in the future, here are three ways to do it.

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The 3 Ways for Brands to Activate in Gaming

  1. Be in the game: In-game advertising is akin to product placement, and it directly reflects your brand in a way that delights players. It refers to how brands can directly influence gameplay visuals/audio with their messaging or alter the gaming experience through skins and sponsored content This often involves working with the game studio directly to strategize and execute a campaign that seamlessly fits into the gaming experience.

  2. Be around the game: This is a brand-integration approach that entails weaving real-life brands into the fabric of gaming IPs in a way that feels natural and harmonious. It includes opportunities available to brands during the gaming experience but not within the gameplay itself such as rewarded video and interstitials. The "be around the game" approach signifies more than just standard brand placements—it's about the symbiotic connection between real-world brands and gaming IPs. The goal here is not just to be visible but to seamlessly integrate and resonate with the gaming environment, enhancing the overall player experience.

  3. Be away from the game: This approach means targeting “gamers,” but it’s more about reaching your audience in the unique and immersive world of gaming as a media channel. These opportunities exist away from the gameplay experience and include streaming, esports and influencer activations. It's not about changing the audience; it's about changing the environment where you reach them. The key to success with this approach is tactfully integrating your brand message within a gaming environment, ensuring the ad feels immersive to the overall context of the game.

The gaming world is one of the most powerful interactive platforms a brand can tap into, offering an engagement level that most other entertainment environments can't compete with, due to their passive nature.

Brands stepping into the gaming world for the first time may find the journey easier than they think. We suggest beginning by getting as close to gaming as possible in a natural and authentic manner. The first step is understanding your audience and gradually making your media more interactive.

A woman plays Candy Crush Saga on her phone while a man cooks.

Where to Start

Mobile gaming serves as an excellent entry point to engaging within game environments because it's the platform where most people play games. Of all gamers—3.3 billion by the most recent count (Newzoo, July 2023)—84% are playing on mobile at least once per week. The majority of smartphone owners are gamers, making it an ideal platform for brands to initiate their journey into gaming.

Despite how easy it is to game wherever, whenever, there are still common misconceptions that brands have about gaming and in the definition of a 'gamer.' 

Today, a 'gamer' can be anyone who enjoys playing games, whether casually at home on their phone or on a console. Brands need to recognize that gaming is a platform for enjoyment and should not be seen as a defining characteristic of their audience.

Brand activations are most effective when done strategically and filled with authenticity. Gamers are a discerning audience, quick to call out brands that miss the mark. The gaming environment is flexible, and brands' approach should be adaptable.

Gaming presents brands with a vast, untapped opportunity. To truly thrive, a brand must understand its audience, maintain its truth, and leverage the power of mobile gaming. It's an engaging journey, and we're here to provide our insights and guidance every step of the way.

About the Author

With over 15 years’ experience in digital, Greg Carroll has a wealth of expertise working with a variety of ad tech companies, agencies and media owners. As Global Head of Revenue at Activision Blizzard Media he is responsible for overseeing all ads revenue for the business globally, helping brands better understand the opportunities in the gaming space. Prior to joining Activision Blizzard Media in 2016, Greg was UK Country Manager at StickyADS.tv, a leading European SSP before its acquisition by Comcast in 2017, where he oversaw broadcaster, publisher and agency partner teams in the UK.

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