Move over OTT, gaming is the new advertising hotspot for brands
Gaming platforms are no longer a place for just small businesses to sell their wares. As more people take to gaming, a number of recognized cross-category brands debuted on these platforms this year to amplify their reach and engagement with target audiences.
They included a healthy mix of endemic as well as non-endemic brands, from sectors across beauty, fashion, grocery and travel.
Advertising on mobile games was one of the most preferred marketing tools during the year. A report from INMOBI says that 6 out of 10 advertisers started leveraging mobile game advertising in the last two years alone – leading to a doubling of ad spend since before the pandemic. This is a result of having seen an engaged audience, measurable solutions and thus an increased return on investment.
The report also states that 98 percent of gaming advertisers have claimed to increase spending on mobile gaming apps in the past year, resulting in a 2X year-over-year jump in mobile gaming ads.
Brands like Gillette, H&M, ICICI, Beardo, EaseMyTrip, Hyundai, mCaffine and many others partner with gaming brands to reach out to the target audience.
Most of the growth in terms of collaboration with brands came from the mobile gaming segment.
According to Anand Jain, co-founder and chief product officer of CleverTap, a SaaS-based mobile marketing company serving a number of game brands, India had the second highest downloads of mobile games and applications through 2021, accounting for 11.6 percent of all app downloads around world. As a result, mobile gaming app advertising became central to discussions about mobile marketing strategy, and this trend continues.
“India has one of the largest mobile gaming audiences with over 430 million players. Advertisers are attracted by these large volumes of users and high levels of engagement. When it comes to monetizing gaming apps, 14 percent of total mobile game revenue is based on advertising, while 48 percent is based on in-app purchases and 38 percent comes from paid downloads, Jain says.
“Until a few years ago, gaming was not considered a mainstream form of entertainment, and brands did not park significant marketing budgets for advertising on gaming platforms.” – Piyush Kumar, Co-Founder and CEO, Rooter
The mobile gaming industry generates a treasure trove of data, allowing marketers to perform precision targeting based on age, geography, gender, device, language and interest segments to reach relevant audiences and maximize ROI.
“Brands have embraced the trend of advertising on gaming platforms because these apps enjoy higher audience attention and engagement. Looking ahead to the new year, advertising on gaming apps will continue to help brands acquire new users,” he adds.
Collaboration beyond advertisements
However, advertising was not the only way to associate with gaming brands.
Brands that do not allow in-game advertising are also constantly engaged with gaming platforms. Baazi Games, for example, worked with a number of non-endemic brands throughout the year. BalleBaazi, its fantasy sports arm, roped in Astro Pay as wallet partner, FMHax as fashion partner and Man Company as styling partner during the National Fantasy Cricket Championship in 2021. Furthermore, during this year’s T20 World Cup, EaseMyTrip joined hands with the company as its brand partner. For PokerBaazi, Beardo also signed up as a grooming partner for the Texas Holdem Poker Championship and mCaffine was a grooming partner during the Baazi Turbo Series.
What brands get when they work with gaming companies
Varun Ganjoo, Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer, Baazi Games elaborates on some of the benefits of associating with a gaming brand.
“Gaming is one of the biggest recreational activities for most consumers, and time spent playing games has only increased since the pandemic. In-game advertising allows brands to not only gain mindshare, but also engage with their target audience in innovative ways. Furthermore, the return on investment their within the defined metrics very clear. The platforms can even provide real-time analytics as to what will work for their consumers,” says Ganjoo.
Anirudh Pandita, founder at Loco, says that the scope of earning through games alone has expanded significantly in recent times.
“We have elevated the experience for the gaming community by taking eSports to TV and OTT platforms. Such collaborations have helped several non-endemic brands reach a wider audience. These collaborations were not just sponsorships but more of partnerships,” Akshat Rathee, MD and Co-Founder of Nodwin Gaming
“Brands have actively partnered with game streamers and e-sports athletes for endorsements and product placements. Some of the top streamers on Loco, alongside their strong growth, have also had a chance to partner with well-known brands such as Monster drink, Adidas, Corsair and Tezos, among others. Loco users today can redeem Swiggy money using the gold they earn on the platform by watching streams, playing games, etc.,” says Pandita.
Another example is Gillette. They entered game-led brand campaigns through content marketing at Loco last year.
Companies in the area have also worked to increase the impact of cutting better deals for brands.
“We have elevated the experience for the gaming community by taking eSports to TV and OTT platforms. Such collaborations have helped several non-endemic brands reach a wider audience. These collaborations were not just sponsorships, but more of partnerships. Together we managed we to weave key messages in an innovative way and be relevant to the audience, says MD and co-founder of Nodwin Gaming, Akshat Rathee.
Changing perception pushes growth
Changing perception around games has been an important contributing factor to increasing the brand’s interest in the space.
Piyush Kumar, Co-Founder and CEO, Rooter, says, “Until a few years back, gaming was not considered a mainstream form of entertainment and brands did not park significant marketing budgets for advertising on gaming platforms.”
There was also a limited view of how brands could engage with gaming audiences – this was usually done through sponsorship of eSports tournaments or by running performance advertising in gaming apps.
“Although there is still a lot to do here, this year we saw more brands opening up to partner with platforms like ours. We only opened our platform to monetization in the middle of last year. Already 90 percent of our revenue comes from brand monetization, which is close to Rs 3 crore in monthly income, adds Kumar.
“Web 3.0 and its offerings are definitely going to enhance the gaming experience. Blockchain technology makes in-app purchases easier, and Metaverse will enable brands to reach audiences through immersive experiences. …when these aspects come together, it’s going to act as a catalyst and further transform the industry by 2023,” said Rajan Navani, Founder and CEO, JetSynthesys Pvt Ltd.
Rooter has close to 50 million downloads, attracting more than 17 million monthly active users (MAU) and 1.3 million monthly creators.
After they introduced personalization capabilities, it saw people spend close to 38 minutes per livestream session compared to 25 minutes previously, steadily creating a highly engaged audience base to interact with.
From close to 20-30 brands at the start of the year, Rooter has worked with around 100 brands now. Advertisers have also explored a variety of ad formats with the platform such as display ads, pre-roll video ads, influencer ads and branded content. H&M, McDonald’s, Airtel, TVS, Flipkart, Spotify, Intel, ACT, HP, Amazon, Shopsy, Moj, BYJU’s, Unacademy, Prime Video, Mivi, Infinix, Wings, ICICI, Vodafone, Logitech and Philips are some of the leading brands ride the gaming and esports wave with Rooter.
How the utilization of technology leads the way for more brands to enter the area
Gaming and eSports brands are constantly updating their technology stack and building on the latest and most advanced technology, and brands are eager to experiment.
For example, as part of Nodwin Gaming’s latest collaboration with Hyundai, customers enjoyed a Metaverse experience during the launch of Venue N Line.
The gaming industry is well poised to unlock the next level of growth due to a bouquet of offerings that are only set to get bigger by virtue of AI/ML, 5G, and especially Web 3.0, said Rajan Navani, Founder and CEO, JetSynthesys Pvt. Ltd.
According to him, when the gaming space was niche, it was difficult for enthusiasts and casual viewers to get the live event experience as awareness was less. As the sector has grown, however, both viewership and interest in the new generation have increased. This presents a great opportunity for brands to partner and advertise during tournaments as they gain access to Gen Z and millennials, a segment of consumers each brand is trying to tap.
Other than that, says Navani, “Web 3.0 and its offerings are definitely going to enhance the gaming experience. Where blockchain technology on the one hand makes in-app purchases easier, Metaverse will enable brands to reach audiences through immersive experiences. The best of these the trends are that when both these aspects come together, it is going to act as a catalyst and further transform the industry in 2023.”