Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

How gaming brings us together and why brands need to get onboard

By Dubose Cole, Head of Strategy at VaynerMedia UK

While the growth of gaming as a mainstream media channel has been well documented, the pandemic has deepened consumers’ relationships with this leisure activity.

While many may not have considered themselves gamers, casual gaming has increased during Covid as people have had more time to get involved. 

According to Deloitte’s 2020 digital media trends survey, during the crisis a third of consumers have, for the first time, “subscribed to a video gaming service, used a cloud gaming service, or watched esports or a virtual sporting event”.

Twitch, the most popular video game streaming platform, saw 1.49 billion gaming hours watched in April — a 50% increase since March, while PC gaming on Stream jumped from an average of 16.7 million users in Q3/4 2019, to 22.5 million in March and April 2020.

As the gaming user base deepens, these entrants are bringing their wider passion points into gaming culture. Adam Harris, global head of brand partnerships at Twitch said “these [new] viewers love gaming but they are also into music, sports and fashion”, making platforms such as Twitch attract a wider range of content.

The platform has seen its “Just Chatting” category explode, since its launch two years ago it has now grown into the biggest section on the platform.

The crossover between gaming and wider life isn’t surprising, as one of gaming’s biggest strengths is its ability to bring people together to share a new view of the world. As virtual communities flourished during lockdown, people came together to see the world in new ways – providing a fertile ground for brands to engage with their audiences and challenge behaviours, attitudes and beliefs. 

VaynerMedia tapped into the shared point of view of gaming for one of UNICEF’s current campaigns. The brand sought to change the narrative around migrant and refugee children through positively showing the skills and potential that these children bring, while also creating a campaign that could speak and engage with new audiences. 

Gaming was the perfect medium to achieve the brand’s multiple goals – moving from perspective shift to action. The gaming audience already showed a propensity to donate, 58% of gamers globally have stated that they are interested in donating while playing a game, as exemplified through the success of past initiatives such as Blizzard’s Pink Mercy charity campaign, where players raised more than $12M for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation through purchasing a limited edition in-game skin.

More importantly, the inherently perspective-changing nature of gaming allowed VaynerMedia to bring to life the active role that these children could play, recasting them as lead characters in video games – full of ambition and adventure – rather than being labelled as victims.

In addition to the campaign, VaynerMedia collaborated with UNICEF and Gameloft to create a digital mini game, with the children starring in the campaign as the main characters.

Gaming has provided UNICEF with a new way for people to see the challenges facing migrant and refugee children. This is the current platform that gaming gives us – as consumers look for new ways to view a world with increasing challenges, we can tap into gaming and it’s growing culture to reinvent how they see the world.