Communicating with Consumers through Video Games: An Analysis of Brand Development within the Video Gaming Segment of the Sports Industry

Article excerpt

Abstract

The PGA Tour/Tiger Woods golf series was examined for brand and product placement and found to have 2,100 identifiable brand images, with all but one occurring in the final three years. Brands appearing most frequently included Oakley, Nike, adidas, TW Nike and Tag Heuer. By product category, Nike was leader in equipment (36%) and Oakley in apparel (31%). The results indicate that video games are increasingly seen as viable marketing avenues.

Keywords

PGA Tour

Tiger Woods

product placement

video games

brand image

Executive summary

The increasing popularity of the sports video game genre has provided advertisers with new avenues for marketing and product placement. Video games, once seen as kids' games and strictly recreational tools, have transformed into vivid, life-like representations of a wide variety of situations. Sports video games in particular have been embraced in the marketplace, with the genre holding 40% of the console gaming marketplace. Chief among the demographic groups that purchase sports video games is Generation Y, a highly desirable target market for advertisers that comprise consumers aged 18-34. As video games have advanced technologically, advertisers appear to have taken notice, with industry-wide expenditure on in-game product placement rising sharply--from $50 million in 2004 to a projected $120 million in 2006.

The purpose of this study was to examine whether companies are using the sports video game genre for the purposes of branding and product placement, and if so, to what extent this utilisation is taking place. The study examined the highly popular PGA Tour/Tiger Woods golf game for the Playstation and Playstation 2 consoles from 1997-2006, utilising the content analysis method to measure the amount of product and brand placement present in the various menu options for each year of the series. The study used the brand image, name or logo as the unit of measurement.

The results of the study reveal that advertisers are indeed using sports video games for the purposes of branding and product placement, and that this utilisation is a relatively new phenomenon. For the first seven years of the series, there was only one incidence of branding. However, in the final three years of the series, from 2004-2006, there were 2,099 unique occurrences of branding and product placement. Furthermore., the number of incidences of branding in each game more than doubled from 2004 to 2006, while the number of brands represented in the game nearly doubled over that same time span. Certain brands had a much larger presence than others, with adidas, the Nike family and Oakley accounting for more than two-thirds of the total branding impressions recorded. In all, 24 distinct brands were identified over the life of the series, including such niche companies as Cobra, Precept and Under Armour.

These results indicate that sports video games are increasingly seen as viable marketing avenues by companies and by advertisers. The growing number of visible company brands, coupled with the increasing number of available products, indicates a desire by these companies to have their brands seen and utilised by users of this game series.

Introduction

Video games (i.e. Pong, Space Invaders, Pac-Man) were introduced almost three decades ago as a new form of home entertainment. While early home video games were rather basic in design and execution, the genre has since evolved in terms of technology, interactivity and popularity. Today, there are 132 million teen and adult gamers in the United States alone, where nearly half of all households have a games console (Brown, 2006). Sales of entertainment software reached $8.2 billion in 2004, and are expected to reach $15 billion in 2009. The potential reach for advertisers and corporate entities is enormous, as video games have provided another medium through which marketers utilise brand development and brand awareness. …