Frontline Marketing

Beyond History, ‘Call Of Duty: WWII’ Marketing Emphasizes Squad Culture

ww2 soldier in combat

By | November 3, 2017 |

Call of Duty: WWII takes the franchise back to its roots not only in setting but several game mechanics as well. In fact, history is the major theme of Activision’s Call of Duty: WWII marketing—honoring historical fact, rekindling history among friends and celebrating the history of the franchise.

Brotherhood Of Heroes

This may be Call of Duty’s third visit to World War II, but developer Sledgehammer Games didn’t skimp on recreating the details, spirit and stories of this dramatic time in human history.

“Brotherhood of Heroes” is a documentary that details some of the key locations of the war and the stories behind them, as they relate to the Call of Duty: WWII single-player campaign.

“There is this respect and honor you have to pay to not only the people but to the places,” said Glen Schofield, co-founder and studio head at Sledgehammer Games in the documentary.

In addition to consulting historians, Activision invited WWII veterans to the studio to share their stories.

Call of Duty: WWII launches just before Veteran’s Day, which is a good excuse to remind players about Activision’s Call of Duty Endowment. This program raises money to help train and place veterans in quality jobs.

Boots On The Ground

First released in 2003, Call of Duty took players to the battlefields of World War II. The game’s new take on AI-controlled allies forced players to think like a squad rather than operate as a “lone wolf.” From that point on, Call of Duty spawned a culture of squad play among friends—a theme that resonates in Activision’s marketing efforts for WWII.

Three spots were released called “Reassemble Your Squad,” in which Call of Duty players reunite from wherever life has taken them to play once more.

Gameplay mechanics have returned to more traditional movements—removing unlimited sprint, double jumps, wall running and sliding on the ground. Sledgehammer Games refers to this as a return to the series’ “boots on the ground” play style.

With the launch of Call of Duty: WWII, the road to Call of Duty World League begins. MLG GameBattles will host regional ladders for teams in North America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific regions.

Call of Duty World League begins in December, with a $4.2 million prize pool—the largest ever for a Call of Duty tournament.

Having Fun With History

WWII is serious business, but video games are still about having fun. Activision partnered with Spotify to hide a set of cryptic audio messages inside the Call of Duty: WWII beta. Those able to decipher the codes were rewarded with special “calling cards” when the game launched on November 3. This was the first brand activation to use Spotify codes by incorporating code-breaking both inside and outside of a game.

“We’re always looking for new ways to innovate in our digital marketing, especially on popular platforms and with partners that we know our community will love,” an Activision spokesperson told AListDaily. “Once we knew the team was conducting a beta, we wanted to tease our campaign content and characters in new and interesting ways. When we saw what Spotify was doing with their new codes, we felt like it was a perfect fit for our fans.” 

The undead returns to Call of Duty: WWII, and players will be able to battle hordes of Nazi zombies in an alternate history that is separate from the campaign. Sledgehammer Games revealed the Nazi Zombies mode during a panel at San Diego Comic-Con, along with an official trailer.

On the opening day of E3, two groups of World War II-era planes flew over the Los Angeles Convention Center, setting the tone before fans got their first look at the new game.

“Historical authenticity is a central tenet in Sledgehammer Games’ development philosophy for Call of Duty: WWII and a cornerstone of our marketing efforts,” Todd Harvey, SVP of marketing at Activision told AListDaily. “The activation was a great way add impact to the show while celebrating the history of World War II aviation.”

As always, influencer marketing plays a major role in Activision’s Call of Duty marketing battle plan. The publisher partnered with a number of athletes to promote the game, including NBA star and celebrity spokesperson Karl-Anthony Towns, who made appearances at Activision’s E3 booth. Later activations featured wrestler Chris Jericho, Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey and Pittsburg Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell.

While the football players received personalized footlockers with consoles and copies of the game, Chris Jericho had to endure a whole lot of hot wings on a sponsored episode of “First We Feast.” Livestreams and giveaways from PlayStation and Activision offered fans their own branded footlocker, PS4 Pro consoles and more.

According to Activision Blizzard’s Q3 earnings call on Thursday, digital pre-orders for Call of Duty: WWII have exceeded prior Call of Duty titles.