How to measure in-game brand activations
July 25th, 2023, Ben Paro

How to measure in-game brand activations

Online sandbox-style games like Roblox, Minecraft and Fortnite are attracting millions of young Americans, spurring brands like Samsung, Nike, Balenciaga, Wendy’s & many more to experiment with innovative in-game activations.

This article analyzes why in-game brand activations are so powerful and details best practices for planning and measuring results.

Not only are high numbers of young Americans playing sandbox-style games, but these games are continuing to capture a growing audience of US teens and young adults, per YouGov Profiles data.

In fact, two in five US teens play Minecraft and Roblox, while nearly three in ten play Fortnite.

Sandbox games have a strong player base with Americans 18-34-year-old too, especially Minecraft and Fortnite.

While brands like Samsung, Nike, Balenciaga, and Wendy’s have already made inroads to these impressionable and growing group of gamers, measuring the tangible impact of in-game activations can be difficult because the technologies are new and evolving rapidly.

YouGov's in-game activation report details methodologies for measuring ROI from advertising on these rapidly growing platforms.Download report

Who is playing and why do brands care?

We’ve established the audience of people playing sandbox games is growing and aging up, but there is also a much larger audience of young consumers who spend hours every week watching game-related content on Twitch and YouTube.

Growing mass reach aside, this is a valuable audience for brands for four simple reasons:

  1. They have money to spend
  2. They’re receptive to branded content and ads
  3. They’re influential among their peers
  4. And they’re hard to reach anywhere else!

Among US adults, the audience attracted by Sandbox-style games leans toward having higher disposable income than the general population.

Note: Totals do not add up to 100% because "don't know" and "prefer not to answer" responses are not included. Data from from the May 14, 2023 dataset of YouGov Profiles.

In addition to having higher incomes, sandbox gamers (29.7%) and viewing audiences (39.3%) are both more likely to agree with the statement, “I am a sucker for anything branded, even if it’s expensive,” which only 22.3% of the general population think.

Moreover, we see that sandbox-style gamers are also in-market to purchase from key advertiser categories, notably around financial services, entertainment, and travel, which underscores the wave of new advertiser-types attempting to influence young consumers through metaverse activations.

Receptive to branded content and ads, and influential among their friends:

Relative to Gen Pop, sandbox-style gamers disproportionately agree with pro-sponsorship and pro-advertising at live event statements; in some cases, even more than the broader Twitch/YouTube Gaming audience agrees with these statements.

A majority of sandbox-style gamers take notice of who sponsors sporting events they watch and pay attention to ads at events. They also say they’re more likely to engage with ads that are tailored to them, they expect ads to entertain them, and they love recommending things for their friends to try.

And, critically, they are significantly less likely to watch television than others their age, meaning it's difficult to reach them anywhere else.

So, what makes a great in-game activation?

When a player logs in to any of these games, there are hundreds of experiences vying for their attention. To attract and retain an audience in your branded in-game experience, the most important factor is that your game is fun – these are games after all – and then (just as important), the right gamers need to know your game exists.

Fortunately, there is a developing world of talented agencies with expertise in designing, building and promoting these types of experiences – many of whom are YouGov clients, leveraging our tools and services to demonstrate audience fit (pre-launch) and measure brand lift (post-launch).

A prime example is Super League Gaming, an agency that specializes in engaging young audiences where they spend their time: GAMING!

Super League creates interactive worlds within Roblox, then works with brands like Samsung and Hot Wheels to organically integrate their brand into those experiences.

"Super League strongly believes that open world gaming and immersive platforms are essential components of a brand’s marketing and media mix. However, without proper measurement, it becomes challenging to compare their effectiveness with more established media platforms and offerings. That’s why partnering with exceptional organizations like YouGov is paramount. Their expertise and audience insights empower us to deliver unparalleled results for our brand partners.”

Zach Hahn
SVP of Partnerships at Super League Gaming

Brand lift studies, implemented through an in-game NPC (Non-Playable Character) survey and parallel Gen Pop study as a baseline, show that players who recalled seeing the brand while playing Roblox were 28% more likely to feel favorably toward the brand than those who did not and were 63% more likely to buy a product from the brand (or ask their parents to buy it for them).

"By leveraging YouGov’s measurement capabilities, attached to our data, our partners gain the ability to compare and contrast the impact of our gaming activations with other elements of their comprehensive media campaigns," said Hahn.

How do we measure success?

Successful in-game activations require: a great game that organically integrates your brand and aligns to overall marketing objectives, targeted promotion (often through collaboration with streamers), and a thoughtful multi-touch measurement plan to show ROI.

Building on proven measurement tactics for traditional campaigns and sponsorship in sports and esports, YouGov offers a menu of measurement tactics that can be used in isolation or together for a more robust impact report.

YouGov’s 4 elements for measuring impact of in-game experiential activations:

  1. Brand Lift and Channel Incrementality: Comparing brand lift among gaming audience vs gen pop, and understanding new audiences reached
  2. Message Receptivity (exposed audience): Measuring how brand-related message points were received throughout the event
  3. Online Conversation and PR: Quantifying impressions through social, influencer and media coverage, and evaluating brand sentiment
  4. Engagement analytics: Measuring viewers reached, total minutes viewed, audience by channel, chat and chat sentiment

Learn more about these methodologies in YouGov's In-Game Activation Report.Download now

With younger Americans increasingly adopting sandbox-style games and simultaneously aging into the job market, the brands that invest in advertising channels they're engaged with will be positioned to capture their business and loyalty in the decades to come. Of course, any major advertising investment needs to prove returns to sustain and evolve beyond a pilot program. Download YouGov's In-Game Brand Activation Guide for best practices on uncovering and showcasing results from this innovative and increasingly popular channel.

Thank you, and game on!

Interested in how to build your own top brand? Our guide offers a comprehensive walk-through designed for marketers and managers ready to make a real impact: How to build and measure your brand’s success.