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NBC embeds brand in popular sports video games

NBC's deal with EA Sports ensures that with NHL15, if it's in the game . . . it's in the game.

(Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports)
(Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports)

Last October, an average of 15 million viewers in the United States tuned in to watch each game of the World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Boston Red Sox.

Last October, 32 million people in the U.S. tuned in to watch League of Legends Season 3 World Championships.

For those unfamiliar with League of Legends, it’s a video game that has become so popular that its top players internationally have actual fans.

So what does that tell us?

The video game demographic has become one of the most sought-after cross sections of the younger generation, and networks are trying to cash in.

NBC last week signed a two-year deal with EA’s NHL franchise, with EA focusing not necessarily on improving game-play, but incorporating an NBC Sports broadcast package into the game, including the famed peacock graphics, title cards, fonts, and, in general, prominent NBC branding throughout the game.

NBC Sports Group VP/Program Integration Rob Sawyer explained that NBC “coveted (the) gaming demographic,” and believes this is an avenue to that subset.

This should not come as a surprise to those familiar with sports video games, as corporate branding has become an extremely prevalent item in sports titles.

“NBA 2K” features a MyPlayer mode where players create their own NBA player, and work to, among ther things, obtain endorsements from the likes of KIA, Jordan and Sprite. Impressive dunks during the game are replayed using the “Sprite Slam Cam,” and a realistic halftime show is presented by Sprint.

All sports video games, whether it be the popular Madden football series or NBA 2K, feature actual broadcasting crews from specific networks, but NBC is becoming the first network to pay to have its likeness emulated on a total scale in the video game. Contrary to popular opinion, this might be a brilliant move, and not just because it will reach your average 13-year-old boy.

Reports have come out showing that female gamers are the fastest growing demographic of video gamers, and, more surprisingly, 45 percent of parents play video games with their children, meaning a video game marketing strategy will reach just about everyone in a household.

So the question isn’t why NBC would spend millions of dollars advertising in a video game. The question is, who’s gonna be next.

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