It is a seriously exciting time for gaming. There is a crossover between motorsports and esports that is elevating the gaming world to a whole new level. The current lockdown may have helped but it is likely the migration between the real and the virtual was always going to happen. Let’s explore why the motorsport manufacturers are lining up to have a virtual model of their car enter the esports arena. We will consider the decisions made by three big names: Lamborghini, Mazda and Honda.
Why would a car manufacturer of the heights of Lamborghini, that sells cars from anywhere between $200,000 and $5 million want a car in a game? The answer offered by the company is simple, “demographics”. Placing a logo and car shape to a game is a cheap way of expanding your brand name into a whole new age group. It brings the brand closer to the fans who might in the future buy the car.
Lamborghini has continued its value for exclusivity. It has only lent its logo and scans to one game provider. By limiting who gets the scans allows the car company to retain control over the quality of the sin-racing product. It also means that only a Lamborghini will race in the series so the manufacturer will always be guaranteed a win.
Whether the strategy to limit the cars in the sim will work is another matter. Most gamers select an esports experience that allows them to choose a different model car each time. There are also significant arguments about which cars would be the fastest on the track. Therefore, this exclusivity may be a matter of politics and a way to avoid getting embroiled with the likes of Porsche.
Mazda might be a little more main street than Wall Street but it still sees the value in entering the esports arena. The Mazda Motor Corp has designed a virtual race car for the Playstation 4 game ‘Gran Turismo Sport’. As with Lamborghini, Mazda may have hit on an extraordinary marketing coup. By allowing players the chance to drive the car in the game, they give them a glimpse of driving the car in the real world.
Imagine the power that will come from creating brand loyalty in a game. The Mazda RX-Vision GT3 Concept vehicle will give millions of gamers the option to drive the car in the simulation game. Developed by Polyphony Digital, the virtual car will automatically be entered into the FIA Certified Gran Turismo Championship – the races from which will air live on the Mazda’s Facebook page as well as ApexTV and iRacing on YouTube.
Sales bodies in showrooms make calls every day trying to entice buyers to come test drive the car. By creating the high-concept concept car for the gaming world, they actively encourage millions to test drive every day and then watch some of the best esports drivers make the car sing.
Mazda has put itself front and centre of the next generation of car buyers and has made itself look pretty cool in the process.
Top esports gamers team Team Liquid recently turned up at a recent tournament with a new jersey. A prominent logo dominated the shirt – it was that of Honda. While on the opposing team, Cloud9, the BMW logo was clear on their right sleeve. Oddly, this was a tournament for the League of Legends. There was no Honda or BMW in sight, as it is a game based in a fantasy game filled with castles and dragons.
Honda doubled down on their decision to back teams in the League of Legends competition by becoming the sole automotive sponsor. Honda backed the right team and Team Liquid were the North American champions.
Honda hasn’t stopped there. The Honda Fit is part of the Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist game, the Civic into the driving game Forza, the music game Guitar Hero Live, as well as the NHL World Championship video game.
What does this prove? It proves that Honda sees eSport as a legitimate route to the demographic of future car buyers. By associating themselves with top games and top teams, Honda is hoping to guide gamers to their first car purchase and from there encourage brand loyalty.
What do we learn from this?
The pattern is clear across car manufacturers. ESports and its massive audience in the teen boy bracket make it highly attractive to marketers. People buy into the culture of the game and will want to mimic the lifestyle suggested in the games in real life. What better way to do this than buy the car you drive in the game? Honda has taken it a step further by backing one of the top teams in esports. This is less novel, as it mirrors the sponsorship of real-world sports team, whether this is motorsports, football teams or more.
What feels cleverer than a sponsorship deal is the lending of a car and a logo into a driving game. This cheap marketing tool allows future car buyers to take a concept car for a test drive and fall in love.