Digital agency EVB knows who the winner of the 2008 NBA finals will be—and they’re using that prediction, and other controversial opinions, to set off a viral marketing campaign for NBA 2K8, the new basketball game from 2K Sports for PCs, the Xbox 360 and Playstation.
Every sports gamemaker promotes the product by showing “highlight reel”-style clips of game action and touting the realism of their play and graphics, says Jason Zada, executive creative director of EVB. To stand out from competing games also launching at the beginning of the pro basketball season, EVB decided to stir up the conversation with some online footage around the tag line, “It’s Like That.”
On the Web site http://www.SeeWhatItsLike.com, EVB has mounted five downloadable video episodes that show, among other things, the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant having a record 100-point night against the Golden State Warriors, Kevin Garnett leading a resurgent Boston Celtics team, and, as a climax, the San Antonio Spurs beating out Boston to win the 2008 title. All the clips are executed with high-def detail, and all tap into the passions of sports gamers.
“We wanted to blur the lines between reality and the videogame world,” Zada says. “The simulation has gone so far that if you take five steps away from the TV, it looks like you’re watching a real game. We were looking to tap into the passions of people who are both sports fans and gamers. Part of that tactic was producing these episodes that are now getting some buzz online. “
EVB helped stimulate the conversation online by mentioning the availability of the episodes in sports gamer chat rooms prior to NBA 28K’s mid-October launch. A TV spot for the game also gives the URL and shows real-life fans reacting to what turns out to be digitized game play from 2K8. The Web site is also featured in print ads and promoted with online banners, some of them created with rich media so users can view the clips from within the ad.
The episodes were quickly picked up and loaded onto YouTube and other video sites—by fans, not by EVB, Zada points out—and have in some cases received more than 30,000 views, with hundreds of thousands of off-site impressions for all the episodes. They’ve also sparked debate in blogs and team Web sites such as the one devoted to the Golden State Warriors.
Some early adopters have also used the game to create and post their own Web episodes.
“That’s another thing we were hoping to see happen,” Zada says. “We wanted people to pick up on these predictive moments themselves and post them wherever they want, and then have social conversations around them debating who will be next year’s most valuable player.”
Ultimately the success of the promotion will be measured in sales terms, he says. Sports games have a relatively short initial sales rush and then taper off until next year’s launch. But Zada says EVB measures consumer interaction with the banner ads and the Web site, watching how many visitors view or download all five episodes. The agency also monitors blog activity.
“The views are great, but it’s the comments that really tell us we’ve tapped into something,” he says. “Comments like, ‘This game has convinced me to go out and buy a next-generation console.’ That’s what the client likes to hear.”