16 August 2019 | Russell Karp
The Gamification of Sports: an Effective Marketing Tool or a Boondoggle?
Although the concept of “gaming” has existed for a long time, the word “gamification” first gained popularity in 2010 as this pastime became deeply intertwined with technology. In the following years, the idea of applying badges, points, and leaderboards to increase engagement in marketing strategies has exploded. With an estimated 2.2 billion gamers in the world, gamification has grown into an incredibly powerful marketing tool.
Gaming companies have mastered the art of interactive entertainment, leading to a robust ability to propel social engagement among consumers. With a growing number of people spending time gaming, it’s an ideal place to reach your audience through their preferred channel.
Gamification is a part of daily life without us even noticing and the marketing of sports is perfectly positioned to work in this context; as it’s already centered around the games of professional athletes. With the massive popularity of eSports tournaments which are capable of drawing in millions of online viewers, the gamification of sports is an advertiser’s dream come true with major industry players rapidly jumping into the fray. For example, Coca Cola decided to sponsor the League of Legends Challenger Series instead of the Super Bowl last year based on the knowledge that the eSports tournament is a superior method for reaching the brand’s primary demographic of 17–30-year-old males. Clearly, gamification is taking a strong hold in the world of advertising, with sports marketing rising to the top of the potential use cases for this engaging mechanism.
Marketing Through Gamification
Sports gamification can be effectively applied in a multitude of ways. From amateur athletes to sports fans, we’re seeing major growth in the forms that gamification can be used to engage a brand’s audience.
If you’re like many Americans, you probably struggle to motivate yourself to exercise on a regular basis. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that only 23% of U.S. adults meet the recommended guidelines for aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercises. Fitness gamification is an excellent method for keeping people motivated to stay active, as earning badges and receiving notifications act like a personal trainer by reminding consumers to remain focused on their exercise goals. By marketing within fitness apps, brands can reach people in a place that’s not only vital to their well being but also one they frequent, thereby creating a highly engaging advertising platform.
Connecting to sports fans through gamification is skyrocketing. An excellent example of this concept exists in Amazon’s two-year deal with the NFL in which the company is using Twitch — the live-streaming platform it acquired in 2014 — and its Thursday Night Football Live streams to test new gamification features that carry the potential to radically alter the way people watch live sporting events. Fans can make quarterly predictions about various game statistics through their Twitch account and are subsequently rewarded with points and ranked against other users on a live leaderboard. By creating this fantasy football-like experience, sports enthusiasts become highly engaged and devoted to interactive gamification, while marketers reap the massive benefits of being able to reach consumers through a channel that matters to them the most.
Opportunities and Challenges
Gamification is a wonderful marketing tool and the future of this concept is bright. At the same time, it must be applied correctly in order to be effective. One of the most important pieces of the puzzle exists in the design of gamification elements, which must be familiar and easily understood by your audience. If the features are too complex, consumers will quickly become disinterested. When it comes to gamification, simple is best, provided that the message is still being conveyed. Measurability is another key element of successful gamification design, as users are more deeply engaged when they can compare their results to others. Additionally, it’s essential to ensure that gamification goals are achievable, as overly difficult games create frustration with players that can lead them to abandoning the task entirely.
Sports marketing and gamification go hand-in-hand. By effectively utilizing gamification platforms to engage consumers, sports brands are ideally positioned to connect with their audience in a deeper manner than ever before, leading to a new world of possibilities. Let the gamification begin!