Google’s in-house game studio Niantic Labs and AXA Insurance have revealed engagement statistics behind an innovative advertising and brand integration partnership. The two companies joined forces, designing and implementing a unique virtual to real-world brand engagement campaign within Niantic Labs’ augmented reality mobile adventure game, Ingress, ultimately connecting more than 4 million people with the AXA brand over 150 days.

In an effort to reach the digitally-connected generation, AXA partnered with Niantic Labs to turn AXA retail agencies in the real world into Ingress “Portals,” which are sites that players visit and battle to control for their in-game faction. In just five months, the success of the partnership saw over 600,000 Ingress players visit AXA Insurance locations to find, collect and deploy more than 5 million AXA Shields, unique and powerful branded virtual items. AXA agencies generated over 3 million in-game actions in Ingress and AXA representatives interacted with over 55,000 Ingress players during live player events called ‘Anomalies.’

Mike Quigley, global marketing director for Niantic Labs, spoke with [a]listdaily about this unique marketing effort and its implications for the future.

How did the partnership between Niantic Labs and AXA come about Which company initiated the idea?

Niantic Labs initiated the discussion with AXA, with the idea of creating a relationship that could help boost player awareness of the AXA brand as well as driver consumers to physical AXA office locations. Specifically, AXA’s premise of “Born to protect,” was a perfect fit into the storyline behind Ingress.

With the success of the AXA partnership, do you anticipate more such brand partnerships in the future for Ingress?

The short answer is yes. The more precise answer is that new brand partnerships are already in flight and have been signed since AXA launched in December 2014. Specifically, we recently announced deals with MUFG (Mitsubishi Bank) and Softbank in Japan and have several other upcoming new partners that we’ll be announcing soon.


Do you see this partnership as a template for other games that are location-based, and something that may become more widespread in the industry Or is this something that is so deeply tied to the nature of  Ingress that it would be hard to emulate?

We view this type of partnership as a template for other location-based, AR (augmented reality) games, or ‘Real World Games’ as we call them here at Niantic Labs. More and more, we see the opportunity for relevant and high quality partnerships that create value for both the user and the partner, and AXA is a perfect example of this. The 4 million Ingress player interactions we’ve driven for the AXA brand are a great example of this win-win proposition for the users and the brand. Given our long-term goal of releasing APIs to game developers so they can build their own ‘Real World Games’ experiences leveraging our technology platform, we view our ‘cost per visit’ model as a unique and innovative way for developers to earn incremental revenue above and beyond more traditional free to play mobile gaming revenue streams like IAP (in-app purchase).

Will Niantic Labs be looking for similar brand partnerships and integration for Endgame?

Yes, all future games developed on the Niantic Labs technology platform will have the option to leverage these brand partnerships.

Do you see potential for this sort of brand integration with AR and games What’s the potential for the future of advertising with these emerging technologies of augmented reality and Google Maps integration with gaming?

Augmented Reality and Real World Gaming like Ingress has the potential to create new value for users. Partnerships like the one we have with AXA allows the advertiser to speak to their target audience on a much more intimate level, reaching them at the right time and place. Additionally, because these brand integrations are tightly woven into the fabric of the game, they’re much more likely to have an impact on user awareness and engagement.

What’s been the reactions of players on social media to this brand integration with the game universe?

Player’s reactions to the AXA Shield game object and their overall brand integration has been extremely positive. Our users appreciate the power of the AXA Shield for gameplay and have embraced the integration in fun and interesting ways. We’ve seen players go on long farming runs to visit AXA locations, collect AXA Shields and use them to protect valuable locations (‘portals’) in the game and share these experiences on social media. We’ve also seen them create banners, posters and even in-game ‘field art’ using the AXA brand image. It’s exciting to see how players react to the in game branding in such a positive light.