In-game advertising works -- at least it did in a recent study by research firm Nielsen, which found a boost in sales of Gatorade, thanks to product placements in EA Sports titles.
Commissioned by Electronic Arts on behalf of the sports drink maker, the study showed that in-game advertising increased household dollars spent on the drink by 24 percent, and offered a return on investment of $3.11 per dollar spent.
Nielsen's study followed at least one of the six EA Sports titles in a given household, including NHL 09, NHL 10, NBA Live 07, NBA Live 08, NBA Live 09
and NBA Street Homecourt
. All of the games had Gatorade product placements within them, such as arena signs, water bottles, score updates and other strategic mentions.
The research firm found the results through its barcode-scanning U.S. Homescan panel, which includes 100,000 households.
Nielsen followed a sample of that panel that scanned relevant EA Sports games -- both before and after integration of the Gatorade ads -- and then compared Gatorade buying behavior with households that didn't purchase the games.
EA SVP of global media sales Elizabeth Harz called the study a first of its kind for interactive entertainment. "Now brands can feel confident adding gaming as a core media channel for their advertising," she suggested.
Nielsen director of media product leadership Gerardo Guzman said, "In this case the story is simple -- dollars put into video game product placement result in more retail dollars."
But reality-based sports games like EA Sports' products are particularly suited for in-game advertising -- as the sector has matured, game makers have become aware of the difficulties of implementing ads in games based on fantasy or sci-fi worlds, for example.
Still, in-game ads are seen in a variety of popular game series today, including Battlefield
, Need for Speed
, Guitar Hero
, MLB: The Show
, UFC Undisputed