Who: Spin Master Ltd., with Blue Ant Plus for creative, strategy and game development.
What: A Bakugan-branded version of Rage Runner, a video game that is massively popular among kids, particularly boys.
When & Where: The game went live in late April on the Roblox gaming platform, with a supporting campaign running on TikTok and in other Roblox games—as well as influencer content on YouTube—until the end of June.
What’s Roblox? Anyone with pre-teen kids can probably tell you, but for those who are unfamiliar, it’s a massive free gaming platform (43 million daily active users in May), with millions of user-created games—think YouTube, but for gaming. The company went public in March with a valuation of about $45 billion. The past year has seen brands ranging from HotWheels and Nerf, to Warner Bros and Gucci, starting to play in the space.
Why: Spin Master wanted to explore gaming to increase awareness of its Bakugan toys among kids. The company had carried out a few small tests in the space, but wanted to try something bigger.
“I know the target demo [boys six to 10] is on Roblox… so why not reach them there?” said Brock McLaughlin, manager, influencer and talent marketing at Spin Master.
How: Rather than simply running in-game ads, Blue Ant Plus proposed an actual Bakugan game with a big influencer push and advertising to support it. And instead of creating a whole new game, they decided to reskin the already hugely popular Rage Runner.
“It seemed like if we were to take over the Rage Runner game, it would be a little more popular than if we were to create a game and have to build an audience ourselves,” said Toni Rufo, head of client services at Blue Ant Plus.
Just take over a game? Yeah. One of the key features of Roblox is that, relatively speaking, it’s simple to create your own game because the platform’s core is user-created content. Blue Ant Plus found the Rage Runner developers in New Zealand and did a deal directly with them to reskin the game with Bakugan branding. They were able to reskin the game in about six weeks.
Inside the game, players see Bakugan characters and posters and can acquire Bakugan skins. Winners receive an exclusive branded Bakugan badge, and every two weeks the game introduces new characters in the Bakugan world. All of this activity drives them to watch the series on Netflix and buy the toys.
Outside the game: Aside from creating the game, the second part of the campaign is ads and content driving kids to the game. Blue Ant Plus bought banners inside other Roblox games (using Robux, the platform’s in-game currency and still the only way to buy media inside the game), as well as TikTok, using TikTok creator marketplace. The big push came from YouTube videos by popular gaming influencers like Flamingo.
A flamingo did what now? Not a flamingo, THE Flamingo. The one with more than 9.2 million subscribers on YouTube. Flamingo is one of the growing number of video game influencers who make a very good living playing games online, talking about them and being charming in a way that appeals to pre-teens, and boys in particular, even if the content makes little sense to adults—or marketers looking to build their brands.
Blue Ant Plus is working with six influencers, all with massive reach. “We launched one the other night at nine o’clock, and by the morning it had one million views,” said Rufo. “You can’t get that in any other categories than gaming.”
Blue Ant Plus also used those videos as the content for the ads running in Roblox and TikTok (above).
“So many of these campaigns are designed to drive sales of a product, but in this case, we just wanted people to play the game because once they got to the game, there’s all kinds of branding,” said Rufo. “That really helps us because Roblox as a platform is very resistant to brand advertising ads, so our ads were not ‘Buy Bakugan toys.’ Our ads were ‘Play the Bakugan game.'”
Did it work? While intended as an awareness campaign, it has had a quick impact on sales, said McLaughlin. And the original proposal from Blue Ant Plus was for five million game plays in the first year, but they’ve done significantly better than that in just two months. “There have been been 43 million plays of this game, which greatly blew out our expectations,” said McLaughlin when he spoke to The Message last week. By Wednesday morning, plays had passed 50 million.