Is Pokémon Go the Future of Sponsorship? Augmented Reality and Sponsorship Activation

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It’s not just kids and aging millennials who are all a clamor over Nintendo’s newest franchise of the Pokémon brand: Pokémon Go! Back in February, the sports world had its first glimpse of the new game during its minute-long Super Bowl ad, but that did little to prepare the vast majority of Americans for the harbinger of augmented reality gaming.

As investors and marketing agencies eye the new application, shares of Nintendo (NTDOY) have climbed sharply since the game’s release, up over 100%. The new game is a product of Niantic, a subsidiary of Google (GOOGL) and its parent company, Alphabet (GOOG).

Pokémon Go is the first augmented reality game to see such widespread initial adoption, between 15 and 21 million users in the first weeks alone. Using your smartphone’s camera and location, the game interactively overlays Pokémon upon a google-maps based program. The game has an established list of historical locations and points of interest that the developers have used as so-called “PokéStops.”

Although the game has, as of now, been live for little over a week, tech-savvy retail businesses, perhaps with younger employees, are jumping at the plethora of opportunities presented by the emergent Pokémon Go.

Within days of the new gaming platform’s launch, a pizzeria in New York City spent $10 using the in-app purchases feature to lure a dozen Pokémon to its location and enjoyed a 75% jump in sales, according to a CNBC report.

Estimates suggest Pokémon Go has generated $14.04 million in revenue since its release on July 6th,, 2016. But where is this money coming from? And what does this mean for the sponsorship industry going forward? Are games and apps such as Pokémon Go the future of the industry?

As augmented reality software and interactive gaming platforms continue to surge in popularity in the coming months and years, we can undoubtedly expect to see an unprecedented opportunity growth in potential impressions and actual audience engagement with sponsors via mobile gaming platforms.

Pokémon Go and other augmented reality platforms that are still to come create a tremendous opportunity for sponsorship and co-branding at specific geographic locations and events ranging from stadiums, concert venues, to festivals. Some examples include the potential for interactive elements held in more remote locations, with less permanent infrastructure for sponsor activations, from the Polo Fields that host Coachella to the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, home to the Burning Man music festival.

Within the realm of more traditional sponsorship, and in the context of Pokémon Go, imagine that as you enter a NASCAR race, you are notified that there is a limited time ability to get a rare Pokémon if you visit the Coke ZERO activation and participate in their promotion. It is not hard to see how this type of engagement could be used to funnel fans directly toward the sponsor activation.

In the case of Pokémon Go, the game could easily be used to attract users to an activation at a concert or sporting event during which the sponsor has paid the game developers to make a “PokéStop” or hotspot, for players in the Pokémon Go game. In fact, with Pokémon Go set to launch in Japan on July 20th, it has already been reported that McDonald’s will be sponsoring the launch, making its restaurants key locations within the game.

As parades of smartphone users quickly descend upon specific location, a well-targeted sponsorship activation could immediately capitalize on this vast, untapped demographic, which ranges from 10-year old children to aging millennials, and young parents.

Augmented reality platforms also offer innovative opportunities for logistics and event operations, on the most basic level of possibilities in the area of crowd control.

In a crowded theme park or stadium, as congestion builds in a specific area of a venue, augmented reality games and apps such as Pokémon Go could be used to drive fans and attendees toward a less busy area of a theme park or stadium from a more heavily trafficked location, in a much more interactive and organic fashion than offered by barricades or security personnel.

It is not hard to see how these emergent augmented reality platforms will transform the sponsorship industry in the short term, and irreversibly alter the landscape in the future.

Sponsorship engagement through augmented reality apps, if done right, won’t be a matter of simple logo placement or banner ads within the gaming app. Instead, augmented reality presents sponsors with the opportunity to enhance personal experiences at any event or public space where smartphones are permitted.

As is always true with genuine sponsorship, those who leverage the marketing opportunities presented by augmented reality by enhancing experiences and emotionally connecting with consumers will be the real winners. GO!

 

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