- The NFL and longtime partner Visa teamed up to create the NFL Zone, a persistent presence in Fortnite Creative, a sandbox game, with multiple engagement opportunities, per information shared with Marketing Dive.
- Launching today, the NFL Zone is designed to attract football and gaming fans alike with two mini-games based on popular Fortnite activities and virtual tailgating experiences. As the sponsor, Visa will have its name on a virtual stadium and have a role in the gameplay.
- Reflecting the NFL’s efforts to expose younger consumers to football, the effort also includes a content series in partnership with undisclosed creators across sports and gaming. The destination will also leverage NFL players and their sizable social followings to raise awareness.
With Gen Z reportedly eschewing professional sports, the new NFL Zone appears designed to attract young fans to football, a demographic the NFL has often struggled with. The effort takes a long view, looking to sustain interest in the virtual destination and drive repeat visits, which has proven difficult in the metaverse.
“Through developing a robust catalog of content with top gaming personalities and pairing it with a persistent presence in the metaverse, we’ll be able to grow generational fandom off the field and enhance the connection audiences have with NFL football,” said Ed Kiang, vice president of video gaming at the NFL, in a release shared with Marketing Dive.
Visa’s involvement also signals the rise in intrinsic video game advertising. Such ads do not disrupt gameplay, but blend into the game environment. Hershey’s Oh! Henry brand recently found success with the strategy, increasing purchase intent by 6.9 points.
In addition, the NFL Zone, which was created in partnership with SuperAwesome, a developer whose technology provides tools for safe digital engagement, includes activities to keep fans and players interested. Inside the Visa-sponsored stadium, players can play Blitz the Bag, whose gameplay is based on Fortnite’s capture the flag contests, in which players must find a bag hidden somewhere in the stadium and return it to one of the NFL stores.
Also within the stadium are portals to maps inspired by NFL teams. These maps will host seek and sack games, based on Fortnite’s seek and destroy team games. The first team-inspired map will feature the San Francisco 49ers. Maps inspired by other teams, including the Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants and others will follow over the next few months.
Content creators will use the team-inspired maps to split into two factions, an NFC and AFC (just like the NFL itself). As they play their games, the content creators' wins will be tracked on a giant scoreboard within the NFL Zone. The division with the most total points after a playoff will be crowned the NFL Zone’s champion. The interactive feature will also enable participants to play alongside their favorite creators.
Brands have been lining up with activities on different metaverse platforms as a way to reach younger consumers, who have more affinity for them. However, sustaining interest when so many new shiny objects are appearing regularly is a challenge. One tip has been to use the metaverse as an experiential challenge, staging communal events, like Walmart’s Roblox-based music festival or Snap’s virtual concert to promote Universal Pictures’s “Marry Me” rom-com. Earlier this year, State Farm and iHeartMedia partnered on a persistent Fornite venue, iHeartLand, that will host virtual concerts throughout the year.