As we look back at the year 2020, there is a LOT to reflect on. Thanks to the new stay-at-home structure of our lives, the popularity of video games has reached a new height. As a result, many of the world’s biggest brands pivoted their strategy towards gaming in a time of uncertainty. The Playcrafting team has taken the time to look back at some of the most unique and successful gaming partnerships of 2020.
Animal Crossing + KFC
At first glance, this pairing might seem a little odd. There is no doubt that Animal Crossing: New Horizons was one of the hottest games of 2020, offering a sense of digital community and togetherness at a time where we are all physically isolated. The game’s popularity opened marketing doors for many brands in various categories, but it was KFC that really nailed it. The fast-food restaurant chain launched a virtual location on ‘KFC Island’ in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, complete with a dine-in area, menus, and even Colonel Sanders himself. Players who found the Colonel on the island received a code for a free 8-piece fried chicken bucket at any KFC location in the Philippines, where the campaign took place.
Why It Worked
KFC was able to attract a new crowd by engaging directly with gamers and incentivizing a real-life purchase. At the same time, the marketing power of Animal Crossing: New Horizons took flight, with many brands following suit by integrating the game into their branding efforts, including fashion brands Valentino and Marc Jacobs.
Activision Blizzard + Google
Two of the biggest companies in the world came together in 2020 to change the way fans watch esports. Google’s YouTube acquired the rights to be Activision Blizzard’s exclusive esports streaming partner, taking the reins over for three premier esports leagues. The partnership rights included Hearthstone Esports, the Call of Duty League, and the Overwatch League, which streamed exclusively on Twitch. The agreement aimed at leveling the playing field for esports viewership between YouTube and Twitch. It also exemplified Google’s focus on providing a world-class esports streaming experience while amplifying the gaming category on YouTube. On the developer’s side, Google Cloud will now power many of Activision Blizzard’s AAA titles and mobile games, enhance gaming infrastructure and provide a higher-quality experience for players.
Why It Worked
The key to a great partnership in the gaming space is finding out how both sides can help each other, even though their goals may differ. Both sides are getting huge benefits from the partnership and bolstering different areas of their business. Google and Activision Blizzard did exactly that and tailored the benefits back to their viewers and players.
League of Legends + Louis Vuitton
High-end fashion and video games? Another unlikely pair. Making it to our spotlight for best partnerships in gaming of 2020 are Riot Games’ League of Legends (LoL) and Louis Vuitton (LV). The partnership started in 2019, but reached new creative heights in 2020. LoL brought LV’s iconic style into the game by creating co-designed character skins. Riot’s art team worked hand-in-hand with LV creative director, Nicolas Ghesquière, to create detailed makeovers for LoL characters Qiyana and Senna. The partnership reached new levels in February of 2020, with Louis Vuitton releasing an LoL-themed capsule collection for fans to purchase and collect in real-life.
Why It Worked
The creation and implementation of digital assets within games is growing rapidly. Brands now have access to these unique in-game stages that they can use to showcase new products and connect with new consumers. Louis Vuitton recognized this creative opportunity and actually paved the way for many other fashion brands that made in-game appearances in 2020.
While these partnerships were some of the most notable in 2020, they are only small pieces of the bigger picture. Last year saw more gaming and esports partnerships formed than any year previously. We are beyond excited for what’s to come with brand partnerships at Playcrafting and in the industry as a whole in 2021.
We’re doing our part to seamlessly integrate brands into the gaming landscape alongside our game developer network. Check out some of the best highlights of how our brand partners are leveraging the awesome power of games. Visit our Brand Arcade today to take a look.
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