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Licensing In Games: Issue 5

Newsletter
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The best examples of IP licensing in video games, as well as the latest news on collaborations, brand partnerships and in-game events. 

From Ralph Lauren giving its iconic logo a gaming makeover through a partnership with Fortnite to three of the world’s biggest footballers making their way into the latest Call of Duty as playable characters, here are the biggest IP deals and our favorite licensing stories from November. 

Ralph Lauren x Fortnite: Are video games and metaverse platforms the future of fashion? 

Ralph Lauren 

It’s not unusual for well-established companies to make changes to their logos and branding. This is usually done every five years to reflect business changes while remaining relevant to wider trends, but Ralph Lauren hasn’t made a single change to its iconic Polo Pony logo since the company’s inception in 1974. Until now, that is, and it’s all because of the company’s recent partnership with the video game, Fortnite. 

The press release announcing the news says the redesign is “testament to the company’s belief in the power of the metaverse.” Whether you agree or disagree with Fortnite being called a metaverse platform, Epic Games has been making a concentrated push to position Fortnite as a massive social platform and creative hub, rather than just being a video game. 

With 400 million registered users worldwide and growing support for user-generated content, Fortnite is perfectly positioned to help global brands reach a massive Gen Z audience who will undoubtedly make up the biggest population of Metaverse users when the time comes. This logo redesign and collaboration by Ralph Lauren is essentially the brand telling gamers (and potential future collaborators): ‘We’re here and we’re here to stay.’

There are so many fashion and lifestyle brands licensing IP into video games and metaverse platforms that it’s becoming hard to keep up with. If luxury fashion brands aren’t hitting the digital catwalk at Metaverse Fashion Week, they’re selling virtual items in Roblox and Fortnite or partnering with video game companies to push their products, whether that’s Tiffany & Co. designing the League of Legends World Championship Trophy or Burberry’s latest partnership with Minecraft

Ralph Lauren  

So, while Ralph Lauren isn’t exactly breaking new ground with its Fortnite collaboration, the fact that a brand with a company logo this timeless is moving into games is pretty remarkable. This collaboration is also a great example of how to properly execute a campaign so both brands benefit, with Ralph Lauren’s horse being swapped out in perfect style for the llama from Fortnite – one of the game’s most recognizable characters. 

In addition to the launch of a physical capsule collection featuring Fortnite imagery printed on Ralph Lauren attire, the collaboration introduced two bundles of digital cosmetic items into the game. The total cost for both bundles is over 3500 V-Bucks (in-game currency), the equivalent of around $25, although the prizes could be won by players that earned enough points in the Polo Stadium Cup (a special solo tournament). 

Fortnite and Ralph Lauren aren’t two brands that you’d normally associate with each other, but you could say the same thing about Balenciaga and Fortnite or Louis Vuitton and Final Fantasy. The key to success for collaborations such as these is putting enough time and effort into the concept and activation to make sure they’re authentic to your core target audience, in this case, gamers. 

We’d wager good money that a lot of Fortnite players who weren’t previously aware of Ralph Lauren now have a positive impression of the brand because of this collaboration, and Ralph Lauren’s decision to update its timeless logo with Fortnite imagery definitely won the brand some major gaming points. 

How brands are using video games to make a positive social impact / Video games and Corporate Social Responsibility 

DOVE

There have been plenty of great campaigns utilising video games to inspire positive social change over the years. In 2019, Space Ape Games added an in-app purchase donation button to its mobile games that raised over $120,000 for wildlife and humanitarian charities fighting the Australian Wildfires. Most recently, 343 Studios expanded its partnership with Limbitless Solutions, a nonprofit that creates bespoke 3D prosthetics for children with limb loss, to offer more Halo-based prosthetics. 

Similarly, there’s a long list of video games that have been created to educate players and raise awareness of important issues such as environmentalism, healthcare, poverty and social inequality. The Life is Strange series tackles difficult topics such as bullying and suicide while wrapping them around coming-of-age themes, while the creator of Papa & Yo uses the fantasy adventure game to explore themes of addiction and abuse from his own lived experience. 

Seeing video games being used as a force for the greater good is great but you don’t need to be a video game company to use video games in your corporate social responsibility plans. The recent launch of Dove’s Real Virtual Beauty campaign is part of the brand’s mission to ‘challenge and change female representation within video games’, with the end goal of ‘making gaming a more space for women and girls.’ 

As part of this mission, Dove says it's building a global character art collection with appropriate representations of female characters in gaming that can be accessed by developers for free. And to support it, Dove is launching an online course designed to educate developers, creators and artists about beauty and diversity in gaming. 

The global launch of Dove’s campaign comes at a time when brands are making a concentrated effort to grow their presence in video games and metaverse platforms. But as Dove’s campaign proves, there are ways of building brand awareness in the gaming space outside of licensed IP plays in the likes of Fortnite and Roblox that are proving so popular. 

Of course, you can always raise awareness and make a positive social impact by integrating CSR initiatives into any licensing gaming activation you’re planning. Philips Norelco launched a branded experience in Roblox called Shavetopia where visitors can purchase unique facial styles for their avatars, with any proceeds generated by these purchases going ‘directly to bolster Movember's work in supporting mental health and suicide prevention, as well as prostate and testicular cancer awareness,’ according to a press release

If you’re a brand considering a move into video games and/or the metaverse, have you considered how any such moves could be integrated into your CSR initiatives? There are plenty of great gaming charities out there, from Playing for the Planet Alliance to SpecialEffect. Alternatively, you can always explore licensing opportunities with video game studios whose values align with your brand. Not only will such partnerships lead to more organic collaborations, but they’ll also achieve a lot of good in the process. 

Messi, Neymar and Pogba are in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II – How footballers are using video games to build brand awareness 

ACTIVISION BLIZZARD 

Never in our wildest dreams could we have imagined we'd be running around in a Call of Duty game as Lionel Messi armed with an AK47 and a rocket launcher, but that’s the world of video games for you. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II launched at the end of October while its battle royale mode, Warzone 2.0, was released just before the opening of the World Cup. Activision capitalised on the convenient timing by introducing Neymar, Lionel Messi, and Paul Pogba into the game as playable characters (operators). 

This collaboration might seem wild, and we appreciate there are plenty of PR professionals scratching their heads at the corporate positioning of giving guns to professional athletes. But you’d struggle to find a bigger boost for brand awareness than appearing in one of the most popular first-person-shooter franchises of all time. Not only that, but Modern Warfare II is the fastest-selling entry in the entire series and it’s only been out for just over a month. 

What we’re seeing here is essentially influencer marketing 101. Footballers are arguably some of the biggest influencers in the world, and attract millions in sponsorships every year. By positioning themselves at the very centre of one of the world’s most popular video games, Messi, Neymar and Pogba are sitting in the spotlight of youth culture. This is a collaboration that no one’s going to forget any time soon. 

You could also argue that guns and themes of violence aside, this collaboration is a natural fit for the three footballers. Professional footballers spend a lot of time playing video games in their downtime. While we’re not suggesting that Neymar, Messi and Pogba are planning to launch Twitch gaming channels after they retire, partnerships such as these do align their brands with gaming audiences and open them up for more deals in the future; all of this exposure will inevitably lead to more money in the future. 

Of course, this isn’t the first time that professional footballers have appeared in video games. Harry Kane and Marco Reus’s skins were made available in Fortnite, PUBG Mobile, another first-person-shooter battle royale, has just announced a partnership with Messi too (we wonder who paid the most) to celebrate the arrival of the World Cup. 

If you’re wondering what Activision gets out of the deal with the three footballers, players can only choose them as Operators if they purchase their limited-time Operator Packs, which cost $19.99 each. Given that Warzone 2.0 is free to download, parting with a bit of cash to play as one of the trio (or all three) won’t put off many football fanatics. 

The quest for footballers to gain brand recognition goes beyond the monetary factor. It is well documented that elite football players rank amongst the top earners for athletes worldwide. Yet, they are still actively pursuing licensing deals to achieve a legendary status in society that money can not buy. By allowing fans to interact with football players in unique ways, the exposure ensures they are not only well-known in the football industry but worldwide. 

Piers Morgan’s famous interview with the most recognisable footballer on the planet, Cristiano Ronaldo, recently highlighted footballers’ pursuit of status is equal to their desire for money. Where Ronaldo admitted difficulty in deciding what he would prefer from Morgan’s question of ‘More money in the bank’ or ‘More Instagram followers’. 

Footballers have always led the way when it comes to high-value influencer partnerships with entertainment brands, but we’ll be interested to see if the growing number of professional athletes making their way into video games encourages celebrities and influencers in other sectors of the entertainment industry to follow suit. 

In brief 

Here are some of our other favourite brand collaborations, licensing deals and partnerships from October:

And in other news… 

  • The studio behind the yet-to-be-released indie horror, Store is Closed, got the shock of their lives when IKEA’s lawyers sent a cease and desist demand due to comparisons being made between the game’s setting and IKEA stores.
  • Frontier has put the brakes on F1 Manager 2022 after ending support for the game less than two months after its release.
  • If you still get nostalgic about the golden days of IP-based video games, check out this deep dive into the history of Die Hard and Alien on the NES.
  • Activision is promoting the release of its latest Call of Duty through as many channels as possible, which means gamers can now get a Burger King COD skin and double XP.
  • And if you’re a fan of COD but whoppers aren’t your thing, you’ll be pleased to hear there’s another food chain getting in on the double XP action: Little Caesars.
  • Final food story, we promise, and this one is really cool: an Oblivion mod now makes it possible to place a Domino’s Pizza order by chatting to an NPC.
  • Mobile games based on the Harry Potter franchise have topped more than $1 billion in player spending worldwide, according to SensorTower.
  • The VR rhythm game Beatsaber’s latest music pack features a collection of songs from Lizzo and costs $12.  
  • There’s no shortage of Roblox activations right now, but this Clarie’s Accessories experience should be a great fit for the platform’s demographic of young players.
  • It don’t mean a thing if it ain't got that sword swing: Jazz legend Kenny Garrett is performing the music from Elden Ring – yes, the fantasy RPG with the epic symphony soundtrack – at Hollywood’s Bourbon Room on 3rd December. 
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