Castrol Targets Video Gamers


BP Castrol is playing games with advertisements for Syntec motor oils – and apparently reaching a lot of men who do likewise on their televisions and computers.

The lubricant marketer tried its hand last year at placing advertisements in video games and found itself on a winning team when the game it sponsored became a top-seller. The company said it received measurable benefits from the sponsorship and that video games will continue to be part of how it reaches customers.

I think it can become an integral part of our promotional programs, said Mike DeBiasi, marketing manager for Castrol passenger car motor oils.

Castrols foray into video game advertising was sponsoring Most Wanted, the latest in the Need for Speed series of racing videos developed by Electronic Arts. The fast-paced game, which can be played on personal computers or television game systems such as Playstation, allows players to drive sports cars such as BMWs and Golf GTIs in races through stark urban settings.

DeBiasi said Castrol had a specific audience in mind when it sponsored the game – men aged 18 to 34. The company considers that group key to Syntec, which it pitches as a high-performance motor oil.

Its important to us to reach the young male, especially those who like to work on cars and see them as kind of a status symbol, DeBiasi said. That group is watching less TV these days, but they are spending more time online, and they are playing video games. So this is a logical way to reach them.

In a way, Castrols sponsorship mixed more traditional means of promotion. The companys sponsorship fee bought several billboards along the race courses and paid to place a Castrol quick-lube at one street corner. It also placed the Castrol logo on one of the race cars.

DeBiasi said he was most pleased about two interactive features. One allows players who reach a certain level to use a Syntec motor oil package to improve car performance. The game also directs players to a Syntec website to find a cheat, which allows them to unlock a Ford GT, one of the superior cars in the game.

We love the fact that the sponsorship allowed us to do things that went beyond brand awareness to actually deliver our message about Syntec and the things it does for your car, DeBiasi said.

Need for Speed was already the top-selling racing game, but Most Wanted ended up being the most popular game of 2005 and sold more than 8.5 million copies.

Game sponsorship is quickly catching on with many types of companies, according to Claire Lipnicki, account manager for MarketSource IMS, a Howell, N.J., firm that developed Castrols program with Electronic Arts.

Its something thats really started to take off in the last two or three years, Lipnicki told Lube Report. A lot of advertisers are trying it. I think the ones that are most successful are the ones who find a natural fit between their product and the game, rather than trying to force something.

Neither Castrol nor Lipnicki disclosed the cost of Castrols sponsorship. Lipnicki did say price tags have generally increased as the channel grows. She said the total amount of money spent on game sponsorship could eventually compare with media such as television and radio advertising, but I dont see it ever replacing them.

DeBiasi said Castrol will certainly continue to advertise in games, especially given results that it saw from its link to Need for Speed. Surveys of people who played the game registered a 23 percent increase in brand awareness, DeBiasi said, and the game boosted click-throughs on internet advertisements 150 percent. More pertinent to the companys bottom line, Syntec sales for the fourth quarter of 2005 were 30 percent higher than the same period of 2005.

We gained market share in the fourth quarter, DeBiasi said. Was that solely due to our video game sponsorship? Im sure it wasnt, but I think that partnership was part of the reason for our success. Thats the kind of results you look for, so we will be doing more of this.

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