Social gaming is a sector that has been growing quickly, especially with the advent of Facebook and Apple’s iOS. They range from five-minute games for the busy mother to extensive, time-sucking online role-playing games. For many advertisers, the opportunity to promote themselves in these mediums is in the form of traditional banner advertising during or in-between gameplay, and you may have tried these yourself.
However, there are many difference types of advertising avenues that include types of product placement, sponsorships, and integrated branding. Due to the niche nature of online games, these types of avenues are no longer limited to just corporations with large marketing budgets. With the right partnerships and the correct timing, your business can effectively advertise to a niche part of your target market in a non-traditional way.
Traditional text advertising: it’s gone a little bit stale
The easiest way to go about advertising on a game is to place advertising before or below a game, but these tend to be quite ineffective in the long run. They will often have the response rate of regular banner ads, but with a few annoying drawbacks. For example, on a mobile device, the ads are quite small and are sometimes overlapped by aspects of the game. They’re also accidentally clicked quite a bit because smart phone users are trying to tap something else or are tapping to try and make it go away. For those advertising on a click basis, this can be costly and can skew the data on the amount of traffic that ad is actually generating.
On the computer, there are often long waits during a game in which ads are played, which can cause a backlash because players are just trying to get back to the game. In terms of effectiveness, they are a slightly more annoying version of regular banner ads, which have constantly struggled with the balance between being noticeable and feeling intrusive. Banner ads in games can have a clickthrough rate similar of traditional banner ads, but they are often not worth the investment when there are other tactics to use.
Partnerships and Sponsorships in Social Gaming
Finding great social gaming startups is a great way to form a partnership or sponsor them without extreme costs. You also form a relationship with a business that could potentially grow in popularity, boosting awareness of your own business – it’s a risk (as they could also go bust), but it can pay off well. A personal mention from the developers or the website owner is a less intrusive way to promote your business with much less backlash than a traditional banner ad. Although advertisers are considered sponsors in the most basic sense, having a true sponsorship or partnership can get you a few extra perks, which may include:
- Your brand name on multiple pages of the gaming website
- A special thank you from the developers
- Potential input on particular features of the game
- Name recognition during sales or other types of promotion
- A boost in reputation from those who enjoy the game
This kind of investment is important because not only does it garner awareness of your business in a non-intrusive way, but it also helps build your reputation, especially if the game becomes very popular. You’ll then be known as one of the companies that helped get this “awesome” game on their feet, and without you, they wouldn’t have been able to develop it. Remember, the games you choose to invest in will likely encompass a chunk of your target audience. For those who are passionate about that game, this investment can be a deal breaker when it comes between choosing you or a similar company.
Give them stuff and they will come
Having the social gaming creators create an item that reflects your brand is a great way to garner awareness, and you may get a piece of the profit if you and the developer decided to charge for the item. These types of items are becoming especially popular in “freenium” games such as The Sims Social, where Gain had a washing machine branded after them. If the item is well-made and fits, the game players will use and appreciate it, and indirectly, will also appreciate your contribution to it. Christian Siriano (of Project Runway fame) did a line of virtual clothes for the teen site Gaia Online, where users trade virtual gold for items (and often pay real money to get more of it). The prices of many of those items are dependent on their quality and rarity – some will work very hard to get a coveted virtual Christian Siriano piece, and his name is on every single item. Because it’s a virtual item, the costs associating with producing it is almost nothing, and they can be reproduced at will.
This is another great way to improve your brand’s reputation while increasing the gamers’ awareness of your products, especially if you have a niche product with a niche audience. If you can find those who are willing to covet your virtual items, it will translate into some of them coveting your real items.
Making your brand flexible is keeping it in line
Sometimes, a game may not fit your brand perfectly, but if your core target audience is present in large numbers, adjusting yourself to fit them is a wise choice. For example, If you get the opportunity to have a town (as virtual as that town is) named after you, take advantage of it, even if that town is an exaggeration or literal interpretation of your brand (e.g., populating an Alienware town with aliens!).
Gamers like to see this because it shows that you’re willing to be flexible with your company for the sake of entertainment and you won’t ruin the “immersion” factor of the game. Having a carefully controlled parody of your company is a great way to keep your company reputation intact, and you’re the one making fun of yourself, not somebody else. Your niche audience will be more likely to recognize your brand because it came from their favorite game, even if they consider it a reference from their game rather than the game referencing you!
Besides, when your brand awareness grows, you want to be a part of those parodies, because they’ll happen no matter what.
Increased reputation in a growing industry
Advertising in a game is about finding a balance between being overbearing and still making your brand known. Done right, it can be extremely beneficial for your reputation. You can target your niche audience in a non-intrusive but interactive way that just isn’t possible with traditional advertising. When you find the right game, as they grow and expand, so does your exposure to new audiences who appreciate your support of the games that they like. Even if you have to flex a little bit as a company to fit in with the scope of your target audience’s game, the reputation and awareness boosts you could get will be well worth it.