Sports Marketing in Gaming 101

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A collaboration with The Gang and Beyond Sports has updated the National Hockey League’s (NHL) Roblox experience, NHL Blast. The experience now allows players to immerse themselves in the on-ice action, exactly as happened in the 2024 NHL All-Star game.

NHL executive vice president of business development and innovation David Lehanski called the Roblox activation, “a crucial aspect of the NHL’s strategy meeting Gen Z and Gen Alpha on the platforms where they are spending the most time.”

So, here are three things all sports marketers should consider when developing and executing strategies like NHL Blast.

Use effective metrics

NHL Blast is not just a digital offering, like the NHL’s website or its mobile app. Instead, it is also a conceptual space that can be experienced beyond its virtual boundaries.

For example, Adopt Me, one of the most popular Roblox games, has spawned several thriving Facebook groups. It has also inspired a dedicated subreddit and a large collection of YouTube videos.

However, these digital media assets are not just the result of dedicated fan activity.

They exist because an impactful playable experience drives channel behaviors beyond gameplay.

Meanwhile users can only engage with a website through its native channel.

Plus, away from gameplay behaviors are as much a part of Adopt Me’s experience as anything in its virtual world.

So, sports marketers should embrace engagement metrics beyond visitors and play time for their game experiences.

Since it’s equally important to know if players are creating/sharing gameplay videos. It’s also important to know if they are taking to social media to connect with other players.

Time box strategies

Roblox is home to over 40 million (estimated) user generated games. These tens of millions of experiences are competition for sports activations like NHL Blast.

In comparison, the physical game of hockey faces competition from a smaller group of other sports.

So, sports brands should consider special-event strategies. The same way Roblox concerts by music artists like Lil Nas X and David Guetta were available for a limited time only.

That’s because a limited-time event full of visitors is always better than a less populated permanent experience.

Plus, the intended action for activations like NHL Blast is increasing interest in physical sport.

But keeping NHL Blast open does not mean that audiences who already don’t like hockey will invest time into it.

In fact, it’s more likely that buzzy special events will attract non-sports fans by tapping into FOMO.

Navigate the funnel

Video games have their own marketing funnel, centered on promoting digital gameplay. Where video game marketing covers that practice.

Gaming marketing employs relevance to gameplay in the marketing funnel for offerings other than video games.

The creation of playable experiences like NHL Blast entails both video game and gaming marketing.

That’s because the NHL must promote the game experience to a target audience e.g., encourage people to play NHL Blast.

The NHL is also using relevance to that experience to promote its own brand.

Yet, game publishers/developers typically handle the complexities of video game marketing for sports leagues.

For instance, the NHL sold rights to create and distribute simulation video games based on its league to Electronic Arts (EA).

So, sports marketers must consider this key distinction before creating a playable world.

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