Snack makers are “definitely underrepresented” when it comes to advertising to gamers, said Caleb Bryant, associate director of food and beverage at Mintel.
But that’s starting to change — snack brands are vying for a share of the action.
That means virtual billboards for Cap’n Crunch appear in multiple games, Lunchable logos appear in Roblox, and Heinz-sponsored rest stops are found in Call of Duty. It’s still early days, but food manufacturers believe this strategy has big benefits.
A marketing transformation
Last year marked “the beginning of our marketing transformation,” he said. This included “getting involved in the game more intentionally”.
In December, Heinz launched an advertising campaign in the first-person shooter Call of Duty. Here’s the gist: Taking a snack break can open players up to attacks from opponents. So Heinz teamed up with the game’s designers to set up safe places in the virtual world where player avatars can hide while they grab a quick bite.
Around the same time, Lunchables launched a branded game within the Roblox children’s gaming platform.
These may seem like niche ads, but Kraft Heinz doesn’t see it that way. “It’s really important for us to recognize that gambling is more widespread and a big part of culture today,” Gajiwala said.
The acquisition of Microsoft is only one piece of the puzzle. Globally, consumer spending on games, including subscriptions and in-app purchases, reached $180.3 billion in 2021, according to Newzoo, a gaming market analytics firm. Newzoo predicts spending will reach $218.8 billion in 2024.
And it’s not just current gamers who are spending more – more and more people are becoming gamers. According to Newzoo, the number of people who reported playing games on computers, consoles or mobile devices in the past six months increased by 5.3% globally in 2021 compared to 2020.
Welcome to the Metaverse
As the game evolves, so does the food giants’ approach to advertising to gamers, said Adam Harter, senior vice president of media, sports and entertainment at PepsiCo.
“There was a time when we looked at a brand like Mountain Dew and said, ‘Well, Mountain Dew is the best fit for a gaming rig. So Mountain Dew is going to be the brand that we’re going to market and make publicity around the game,” he said. “That’s not how we do it anymore. From now on, for almost all of our brands, it is an essential element of our media communication strategy.”
PepsiCo began seriously marketing more of its products to gamers about three years ago, Harter said. In 2021, he worked with Anzu, an in-game advertising company, to place advertisements for Cap’n Crunch in several games. He also promoted Doritos, Ruffles potato chips and, of course, Mountain Dew, in these virtual spaces.
For Harter, it’s not enough to market more products to gamers. PepsiCo also needs to reach different types of players.
“The game exploded with such a massive audience,” he said. “It’s not just about these competitive players…I see this now as an opportunity to become more surgical in how we reach consumers.”
“I see the game as really the stepping stone to this new phenomenon that we call the metaverse,” he said. “As people live their lives in the metaverse on a more daily basis over the next few years…it’s critical for brands like ours to make sure we’re where those consumers live their lives.”