Frontline Marketing

The Tasty Relationship Between Food and Video Game Brands

By | November 17, 2016 |

From begging our parents to buy Nintendo cereal to grabbing a slice of pizza at the arcade, food and gaming have always gone together. Over the years, the relationship between video games and food have grown into a delicious pairing that continues to target a passionate (and largely male) millennial audience.

GrubHub, for example, has partnered with Ubisoft for a Just Dance 2017 campaign asking consumers, “what’s your doorbell delivery dance?” Users are invited to use a special Just Dance code at checkout for a chance to win the game.

PepsiCo is definitely a heavy-hitter when it comes to marketing to gamers, especially with its Mountain Dew brand. Its GameFuel campaigns partner with major game releases like World of Warcraft, Call of Duty and Halo offering limited-time flavors and special offers. This time, the company is offering a combo with both Mountain Dew and Doritos to offer additional XP, a special PvP mode, in-game skins and a chance to win an Xbox One—all to promote Titanfall 2 in a promotion called “Fuel Your Titan.” Buffalo Wild Wings also got in on the action by offering access to the PvP “Coliseum Mode” to those dined at the restaurant at the end of October.

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While Doritos is often paired with Mountain Dew, PepsiCo’s crunchy tortilla chip brand has been featured in a few gaming promotions of its own. For example in May, a gamified campaign for Doritos Mix offered a sweepstakes to win prizes such as an Xbox One, Xbox Live memberships, copies of Call of Duty: Black Ops III, a Samsung Gear VR headset and more.

Taco Bell and PlayStation have become BFF’s when it comes to giveaways, with a relationship that spans back to the PlayStation 3. The two companies have formed a tasty alliance that includes sweepstakes, instant wins and recently, a pop-up PlayStation VR arcade.

As always, enlisting the help of an influencer can boost engagement for both food and the games they partner with—for the launch of Halo 4, Pizza Hut Delivery teamed up with YouTube personality, FlawlessCowboy and Microsoft to introduce the Halo 4 Stuffed Crust Pizza. The promotion came with its own microsite, where fans could order food and claim exclusive items like Halo avatars and win prizes. The pizza even arrived in a Master Chief-themed box. This holiday season, Pizza Hut has once again partnered with Microsoft to give away Xbox One S consoles and custom red Pizza Hut controllers.

Healthy Eating

It hasn’t always been an easy journey for food and gaming brands, however. Times are changing in the way consumers view advertising, quality of food and stereotypes of what it means to be a video game fan. Global food experts calling to regulate or ban advertising to children for products deemed unhealthy and some gamers prefer healthy choices to sugary snacks. With the rise of eSports and the need for this new kind of athlete to perform at his/her best, it will be interesting to see what kind of food partnerships arise.

“There’s no question for me that a healthy lifestyle reduces fatigue and helps concentration levels.” Pro StarCraft II player Samayan ‘BlinG’ Kay told Red Bull UK. “I definitely feel I’m more alert throughout the time I’m practicing and can stay that way for longer compared to times where I slip away from keeping active and start to binge out a bit.”

Gaming and food go together so well that brands are even creating their own specialized products. Gamer Grub produces an array of snack foods designed to be eaten out of a pouch and claim to be full of vitamins and neurotransmitters to increase performance. The brand has even partnered with eSports world champion, Jonathan “Fatal1ty” Wendel to promote.

Quest Nutrition, maker of the Quest Bar, is the first non-endemic sponsor to get on board Robert Morris University’s (RMU) eSports program. “After researching the space, meeting with pro players, and talking about their training regiment, we realized that these athletes need to treat their bodies much like traditional athletes do and we want to help them tell the story of how living a healthy lifestyle can help their performance,” Nick Robinson, chief marketing officer of Quest Nutrition, told [a]listdaily.

Meanwhile, Totino’s Pizza rolls doesn’t seem concerned about the health craze and is taking a different approach when it comes to marketing. “When we decided to go after that millennial audience, we saw thousands of people were making fun of the product on social media, being irreverent, but having fun,” Caio Correa, marketing manager for Totino’s told the Star Tribune. “We realized, they were talking to us, but we weren’t talking to them.” The result was “Live Free, Couch Hard”—a snarky, self-depreciating campaign that embraces what it is—a snack food for lounging. After some fun tweets back and forth this spring, the brand teamed up with Sega for its 25th anniversary celebration of Sonic the Hedgehog at San Diego Comic-Con. Last October, Totino’s had an on-pack partnership with Activision’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 and this year, the brand has an on-pack partnership with Microsoft’s Gears of War 4.

General Mills, the parent company that owns Totino’s has set its sights on eSports, partnering with Yahoo ESports to sponsor its weekly live shows. The company has been marketing Cinnamon Toast Crunch to late-night gamers for years, and has integrated Reese’s Puffs directly into Yahoo’s Twitch and Facebook Live channels.