Duty Free: How Brands Can Surprise and Delight Gamers Every Day

Dave Madden
Dave Madden  |  President, PlayerWON®
Updated: Sep. 23, 2022
Published: Oct. 22, 2021

I have to say, I absolutely love the new iteration of the Mountain Dew and Doritos partnership with Call of Duty. Why? Because it represents the next chapter of a long-running program specifically built to provide players with something they really want: free in-game content – in this case, double XP. Words like surprise, delight, exciting and, especially, rewarding come to mind. There’s no doubt that this near-annual fall program drives benefits for all three stakeholders involved: the game, its players and the PepsiCo brands that get an opportunity to build loyalty with those gamers.

The Mountain Dew and Doritos partnership with Call of Duty provides players with something they really want: free in-game content

During my tenure heading up the global brand partnership organization at Electronic Arts, I had the privilege of overseeing a number of similar mashups with PepsiCo, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and other massive consumer brands across franchises such as EA Sports FIFA, Madden NFL and Battlefield to name a few. So I can say with confidence that the amount of people, work and costs that go into these programs make them inherently rare and highly unique. A great partnership can take years to plan, negotiate and execute given the game development timelines, the retail packaging deadlines and associated opportunity costs. That’s a big reason why the big ones tend to become somewhat perennial.

The amount of people, work and costs that go into video game brand partnerships like Coca-Cola and EA Sports make them inherently rare and highly unique

What makes a partnership like Dew/Doritos X CoD so successful is the notion of value exchange. Players are asked to commit to buying something for which they generally have a strong predilection and, in return, they earn something of material value (like 2XP, experience points at double the normal rate to increase their rank) in one of their favorite games. It’s a clear win not only for the participating brand(s) and the gamers, but also for the game itself, thanks to the inevitable boost in player engagement generated by all that free content.

However, it must be noted, the bespoke nature of these mega partnerships make them inevitably non-scalable and certainly not an option for most publishers or brands. Consequently, these deals are few and far between, which is why they generate so much buzz when they do happen.

But just imagine if brands could capture this exact same surprise-and-delight mechanic with players in their favorite games -- generating similar loyalty and the halo effect of a rewarding value exchange -- without having to commit to years of planning, promotional packaging and teams of people to manage the process.

Well, imagine no more. This is precisely why we created PlayerWON®, the first dynamic in-game rewards platform for console and PC games. With PlayerWON, we’re able to inspire that amazing, unique feeling of surprise and delight for players that comes from earning free valuable in-game content courtesy of brand sponsors. But instead of having to run down to their local 7-Eleven or Target, players can unlock these same rewards while they are playing their favorite games, in return for snippets of their attention when they choose to watch a sponsor video between matches or during other idle moments of gameplay, completely under the player’s agency and control.

And guess what? The outcomes are nearly identical to the custom retail partnerships in terms of brand preference, loyalty and purchase intent. Most importantly, this value exchange model can be achieved through a turnkey media buy/sponsorship from brands’ existing TV and video budgets.

PlayerWON is taking the best aspects of brand sponsorship of huge game launches and making them available to players every day in their favorite games, creating value for gamers who get more free content, for brands who can build lasting relationships and for developers who see their player engagement and retention skyrocket.

It’s a true Win X 3.

Want to learn more? Find out how PlayerWON can connect your brand to the most passionate audiences in all of media, while enhancing the playing experience for gamers and driving lifetime value and passive revenue for developers.