Michelin is urging teen drivers to be safe behind the wheel with a campaign that includes interactive content in a mobile video game. Players of The Sims FreePlay will see the tiremaker's digital billboards that offer a chance to earn in-game currency while learning about potentially lifesaving tire safety.
"When we looked at what games teens were playing, we found The Sims consistently topped the list," Stephanie Tarbet, vice president of communication, brands and government affairs at Michelin North America, said by email. "Creating safety messaging within The Sims gives us the opportunity to reach 400,000 teen drivers each day of our latest integration."
She cited data showing that The Sims, which is published by Electronic Arts, has more than a million daily log-ins, while 40% of its gamers are in its target audience of people ages 13 to 24.
Michelin's presence in the mobile game comes as U.S. ad spending in video games overall is expected to rise 14% to $5.8 billion this year, according to a Winterberry Group estimate. While that lift isn't as fast as the 17% expansion to $280.3 billion in total digital ad spending, consumer interested in gaming has caught marketers' eyes as they spend more time consuming entertaining content.
#GoldenGauge for the win
With its digital billboards within The Sims game, Michelin aims to extend the reach of its #GoldenGauge sweepstakes for Teen Driving Awareness Month, which is observed every January. The first 10,000 young drivers who visit the campaign's microsite and enter their address will receive a Michelin-branded tire gauge in the mail and have a chance to win prizes if they use it to check their tires.
After the gauge is fastened to a tire valve, its indicator stick will pop out to show the air pressure. The color of the stick will indicate if the participant has scored game-related merchandise or in-game currency. The recipient of the "golden gauge" will win a video game console, gaming laptop, smartphone, virtual reality headset and a set of Michelin tires, among other gear. The five participants with a purple gauge will receive a more limited selection of prizes, while 10 entrants will win gift cards to support their favorite Twitch streamers.
"As gaming grows in popularity across audiences, we are continuously evaluating our gaming and esports strategy to better engage with our consumers," Michelin's Tarbet said. "Gaming indexes [are] particularly highly among the Gen Z audience."
"Creating safety messaging within The Sims gives us the opportunity to reach 400,000 teen drivers each day of our latest integration."
Vice president of communication, brands and government affairs, Michelin
Ninety percent of those younger consumers identify themselves as gamers, and more than 40% report gaming as one of their top three favorite activities in their free time, she said. While this isn't Michelin first time getting into gaming-related sponsorships, integrating in The Sims and extending the effort offline to provide potentially livesaving value signals the brand's growing interest in reaching younger consumers via gaming channels. In 2019, Michelin was the first tire manufacturer to partner with a game developer and esport series as the official tire technology partner for Gran Turismo, the racing simulation game for Sony Playstation. Michelin also was the first official tire suppler for the FIA-Certified Gran Turismo Championships esports competition.
In addition to its digital billboards in The Sims, Michelin is promoting #GoldenGauge with an influencer marketing effort. The brand teamed with TikTok influencer Robin Hunting, who has 4.5 million followers at his handle @DutchInTheUSA, to create sponsored content that's consistent with his personal safety videos tailored to his younger follower base.
#GoldenGauge is part of Michelin's broader Beyond the Driving Test effort to promote the safety of teen drivers. Launched in 2014, the campaign has included the brand's #StreetTread program that featured a limited-edition sneaker created with Vans. Its Penny for a Free Ride offered a $100,000 college scholarship to teens who learned how to check the tread depth of their tires using a penny.
Michelin cited data showing that car crashes remain a leading cause of teen deaths in America. An estimated seven teenagers die each day because of accidents, while hundreds more are injured, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 11,000 accidents each year are the result of improper tire maintenance, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has determined.
Michelin's recurring campaign comes as consumer expectations about brand responsibility have grown, especially among socially conscious younger generations like Gen Z. Some 86% of consumers said they expect brands to take actions beyond promoting a product or business, public relations firm Edelman found in a study last year. Those actions include everything from donating to good causes to creating positive change in society.
"Our goal is to educate and increase awareness about the importance of tire safety and how taking simple steps can help prevent car crashes," Tarbet said. #GoldenGauge was "designed to meet teens where they are — gaming — to talk to them about tire safety and drive them to take real-world action."