Mobile gaming is having a moment in the spotlight as homebound consumers spend more time on their smartphones and seek new modes of entertainment. Recognizing the trend, Mountain Dew developed a limited-run mobile game that pits NBA fans against New Orleans Pelicans power forward and All-Star Zion Williamson.
"Broadly, this idea of casual gaming — it continues to rise," said Chauncey Hamlett, vice president and chief marketing officer for PepsiCo Beverages North America's South Division. "Authenticity is key here, and this kind of mobile-forward approach is something that we love about it."
Zion Shoots. You Score. is an exclusively mobile web-based experience and will be available at MTNDew.live through May 25. The PepsiCo beverage marketer also layered a retail component into the campaign, placing point-of-sale QR codes at select stores that activate the game when scanned. Throughout the project's more than year-long development, Hamlett and his team honed in on accessibility — a strategy they hope will pay off as a wider swath of consumers gravitate toward hypercasual gaming. Mobile games were forecast to generate around $86.3 billion in revenue last year, according to estimates from researcher Newzoo.
"We tried to take a simple approach to this ... even to the fact that you don't have to download an app," Hamlett said. "People are naturally used to utilizing QR codes, they're used to having their phones in their hands and they're used to engaging them. Simplicity was the key here."
Mountain Dew actually introduced the concept for the mobile game last year, testing the title in what Hamlett described as a "soft launch." The coronavirus disrupted some of its plans after shutting down the NBA season in mid-March. Since then, Hamlett and his team have refined the idea, adding new gameplay features, including three-point shooting, blocking and a skills test, as well as reassessing where the game would activate.
"It's not just the retailer focus now, it's a much broader piece," Hamlett said. Mountain Dew is promoting the rollout online through streaming content, including tie-ups with gaming creators iPodKingCarter and Camills.
The brand worked closely with Williamson during the gestation phase of the game, looking to create a deeper connection to the NBA star. The athlete, known for his big personality on and off the court, struck a five-year endorsement deal with Mountain Dew in 2019.
"He's been heavily involved in the look and feel of the game [and] how consumers engage the game," Hamlett said of Williamson.
Zion Shoots. You Score. lets users control a digital avatar of Williamson whose shots are guided by swiping a smartphone screen or tilting a smartphone with motion controls enabled. The stronger the swipe or tilt, the harder Williamson shoots the ball, with a meter reading the shot's power level on the side of the screen.
After completing a round, a score is tallied and the player can enter their email address to be eligible for a weekly prize drawing, with rewards ranging from basketball merchandise to tickets to the 2022 NBA Finals presented by YouTube TV. Through Tuesday, April 6, players can also try to match Williamson's own high score. Mountain Dew will select 14 winners to play against the NBA star live, with the chance to win additional swag like signed gear and a year's supply of Mountain Dew.
Mountain Dew is in the first phase of the campaign and aiming to drive organic buzz on social media, according to Hamlett, but it plans to introduce more paid elements to ensure the effort has legs.
"We'll start to add on some media to it as well, a combination of a broad digital [play] as well as some customer-specific digital tied to this," Hamlett said. "The good thing is that gamers are huge basketball fans as well, and particularly Zion fans."
Clarification: This story has been updated to more accurately reflect the title of the mobile game and details behind Mountain Dew's influencer partnerships, which were clarified to Marketing Dive after publication.