How BMO wants to play, and win, on Twitch

Who: BMO Financial Group, with FCB and UM.

What: “BMO NXT LVL,” a Twitch channel where BMO will broadcast streaming content hosted by its newly appointed “Gaming Relations Specialist” (or GRS). FCB is calling this a “long-term strategy,” with content “intersecting gaming culture and personal finances.”

When & Where: BMO began introducing their GRS and the Twitch channel through paid and organic posts last week. The first stream is scheduled for May 13, with a home page takeover driving people to the livestream.

Why: Creating NXT LVL is about reaching a large and growing consumer cohort (gamers) that skews younger, on a platform that has expanded quickly in the past few years, particularly during the pandemic.

“The goal of the program is to build more brand awareness and connect with new audiences, so we’ll be measuring success in increased brand favourability among younger potential customers,” said Stephanie Gyles, FCB’s strategy director.

It’s difficult to get young people to think much about changing their bank brands, she said. “Especially when they feel like all banks are the same and that they’ve never been spoken to by a traditional bank in a way that authentically shows an understanding of their lifestyle. This is why we launched BMO NXT LVL, to break through the noise and set ourselves apart by meeting them where they are.”

How: Having its own channel on a platform that has been moving beyond video game streaming enables BMO to create and share content that fuses gaming with personal finance topics like monetizing gaming, home ownership, and investing.

BMO’s GRS, Sean Frame, a gamer and BMO employee from Windsor, will play games and talk financial literacy with influential Canadian gamers. The content will be live-streamed and repackaged and posted on social. In the first live stream, Frame will play games and talk with the gamer Wardell about turning his passion and skill for gaming into a business.

How to be authentic? The marketing world has seen countless stories of brands venturing into new spaces and platforms in recent years, only to be humbled by sharp-witted, tech-savvy, and usually young people, who mock the brand intrusion.

“This is a discerning community who has little patience for pandering,” said Eli Ferrara, VP, creative innovation at FCB, rather diplomatically, in a release.

And while a bank playing in gaming seems fraught with “How do you do, fellow kids?” danger, BMO and FCB made an extra effort to join the game authentically by finding the right person to be their GRS.

“When looking to connect with new audiences on a new channel, there’s always a risk, but we’re excited about growing our community because we’re taking a very authentic approach to ensure that we’re welcomed,” said Gyles.

“Sean, our GRS, is a banking expert but also a very passionate gamer who knows as much about the space as any Twitch user. With him leading the charge, we’re joining the community as a member there to primarily entertain and add value.”

BMO introduced Frame and NXT LVL this week in a video where he shows viewers his gaming setup, and how levelling up in a video game is like levelling up ones personal finances.

And we quote: “NXT LVL opens the door for BMO to engage thousands of gamers by entertaining, educating, and connecting with them in a way no bank has done before,” said Maja Neable, BMO CMO, personal and business banking. “The Twitch platform is immersive and personal and it’s an incredible opportunity to continue to authentically connect with customers, provide value to viewers in an entertaining way, and help customers make real financial progress.”

David Brown