Creating In-Game Customer Experiences

Rafael Bifano, Danielle Fatt, Michela Marks, Sameer Rashid and Justin Su
MBA Perspectives
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Key Takeaways
WHAT? FIFA 16 demonstrates three principals that marketers can use to be successful with in-game advertising: complementing and enhancing the game, moving beyond functional and expressive satisfactions, and co-creating the brand narrative.

SO WHAT? Understanding that players consume both the content and the experience of the in-game advertising, in-game advertising needs to both complement and enhance the overall game experience through meaningful integration.

NOW WHAT? As in-game advertising is only one manifestation of the brand, the advertising needs to be situated in a way that helps to shape the overall brand narrative the brand is wishing to convey through the players interactions with the product. 

MBA Perspectives: 'Big Design' is an exclusive AMA series examining customer experience design.

According to the Entertainment Software Association, here are the latest facts about in-game advertising:

  • Over 155 million Americans play video games
  • Americans, per capita spend 23.2 minutes playing video games daily
  • In-game advertising has been found to increase purchase intent by 24%, brand recommendation by 23%, and overall brand rating by 31%

Video games are a growing source of entertainment, as they enable players to transport themselves into an alternate reality where they are able to construct their ideal selves. However, when products and marketing messages are blatantly placed in a game, it can easily drive players away from being immersed in the game, and compromises their customer experience.

How can marketers tap into the gaming industry and promote their products in a way that does not compromise the gaming experience?

FIFA 16, the latest in the FIFA series of video games, offers an excellent glimpse as to how in-game advertising can enhance the gaming customer experience:

1. Complementing and Enhanci​ng the Game

According to a recent study in the Journal of Marketing by Nina Diamond, John F. Sherry Jr., Albert M. Muñiz Jr., Mary Ann McGrath, Robert V. Kozinets, and Stefania Borghini, strong brands are those whose components evidence the greatest degree of synergy, which the authors refer to as the brand gestalt. If we apply this logic to the gaming industry then the many parts that constitute a video game should complement and enhance one another. In FIFA 16 for example, in-game advertising is embedded into the game, from pitch-side advertising to the players’ apparel. As the real world soccer stadium experience is full of advertising, the use of in-game advertising complements and enhances the overall game experience by helping to create a realistic, yet virtual soccer stadium environment for the players.

2. Moving Beyond Functional and Expressive Satisfactions

Firstly, FIFA 16 fulfills the functional and expressive satisfactions of the gamers – the game provides players with a source of entertainment and interaction with their favourite athletes. However, according to Diamond et al. (2009), a product can become more successful when its customer manifestation is more than the embodiment of functional or expressive satisfactions.  FIFA 16 uses in-game advertising to go beyond satisfying the player’s basic needs to effectively engage with players. Including exclusive products such as the Adidas Messi 10/10 Football Boots, the product placement appeals to the search and acquisition needs of the players, who need to reach a certain level in order to obtain the prized shoes that are extremely rare in reality. This practice enables players to become more amenable to the product placement and connect on a deeper level to the product.

3. Co-creating the Bran​d Narrative

Based on the brand gestalt article​ (2009), a brand is a complex network of meaning distributed among the many constituents that form the brand. In-game advertising is just one of many touchpoints, and needs to fit within the overall narrative the brand is wishing to create with consumers. Further examining the Adidas Messi 10/10 Football Boots product placement in FIFA 16, the product is placed at a level where players are skilled at gameplay, aligning the product with the Adidas’ overall narrative of performance and passion. In using the shoes, the player is then able to re-create their own narrative of the brand.


Adidas Group (2015), "Adidas," (accessed October 20, 2015). 

Diamond, Nina, John F. Sherry Jr., Albert M. Muñiz Jr., Mary Ann McGrath, Robert V. Kozinets, and Stefania Borghini (2009), "American Girl and the Brand Gestalt: Closing the Loop on Sociocultural Branding Research," Journal of Marketing, 118-134. 

EA Sports (2015), "Messi 10/10 Boots," (accessed October 20, 2015). 

Entertainment Software Association (2015), "Industry Facts," (accessed October 15, 2015).

The AMA is pleased to partner with Professor Markus Giesler and his MBA students from the Schulich School of Business at York University

Author Bio:

Rafael Bifano, Danielle Fatt, Michela Marks, Sameer Rashid and Justin Su
Rafael Bifano, Danielle Fatt, Michela Marks, Sameer Rashid, and Justin Su are students in Markus Giesler’s Customer Experience Design MBA elective course at the Schulich School of Business, York University.​
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