Last month when the Super Bowl dominated, Epic Games, the publisher of Fortnite, crashed the party by taking the gaming and esports universe’s most popular game to the next level. With its clever integration partnership with Marshmello, arguably the biggest name in Electronic Dance Music (EDM), Epic orchestrated a textbook example of a branded entertainment partnership that was authentic, organic and beautifully executed. Brand marketers should take notice and draw inspiration.
As I’m sure you already know, Fortnite is kind of a big deal. 2018 will forever go down as the year of Fortnite in the gaming and Esports universe. This free-to-download battle royale title took the world by storm. Despite it being free, Epic has made over $3B in micro-transactions within game play and monthly battle pass revenue. With no small risk, Epic’s approach has paid off fantastically, achieving scale incredibly fast for Fortnite. Its success has rocked the gaming world and made title publishers around the world second guess their go-to-market approaches. What’s more impressive –and threatening to its competitors—is how relentlessly committed Epic has been to continuously evolving the offering. The company is keeping the masses interested with ever changing graphics, maps, and for-profit digital accessories. Epic Games has also been successful in integrating cultural moments into its game. Back in November, it released specific NFL team digital uniforms that players could purchase to display their love for their favorite teams. This launched with great success.
Then along came Marshmello.
Entering the EDM scene as a Skrillex apostle in 2016, Marshmello, an anonymous, costumed EDM DJ, has made his mark with lyrically appropriate dance music; a cartoon-like persona and a social content strategy rivaling some of the world’s top brands. He is in such high demand that he’s been known to turn down 7 figure pay days for branded private performances. Marshmello’s meteoric rise to stardom almost mirrors the trajectory of Fortnite’s success. It was a partnership that also seemed fated to happen.
Seeing a kindred spirit, Epic Games announced a partnership with Marshmello last month to great fanfare. This past weekend, that partnership paid dividends. On Saturday, players of the game were instructed to enter a new, unique play mode and visit a specific location on the gaming map. They were rewarded with a 10 minute digitally translated concert performance by Marshmello himself. Cool idea, right? 10 M people think so. They concurrently converged to this one map location to be a part of this unprecedented execution. This was all in promotion of Fortnite’s latest offering-- Marshmello branded digital skins and weapons. Don’t think for a second every agent in America is not calling Epic today to see how their artist can be next.
Hopefully, this brilliant case study in entertainment co-branding will encourage more brand marketers to create similar partnerships. Knowing Epic, it is probably already identifying ways to showcase brands in incredibly authentic ways a la Marshmello. Authentic lifestyle brands like Supreme and BAPE should be jumping at the chance to create branded skins for sale while delivering live music experiences with the artists they regularly partner with. Such a partnership delivers brand new revenue streams while expanding brand exposure to demographics that wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford their wares. For Epic, it associates its brand with cool; creates destination viewing/playing moments; and creates yet another revenue stream for a company who’s already running out of room in its mattress for all the extra cash.
However, Epic needs to be smart. Understand the danger of over commercializing this and ensure the brand partnerships are driven not by checks but by true value exchange delivering all parties needed authenticity and keeping the game itself culturally relevant at all costs.
By: Glenn Minerley, SVP: Head of Music, Entertainment & Esports, US