Skittles ties with Xbox for £3m marketing push to reach gamers

Skittles is partnering with Microsoft Xbox brand to launch a £3m pan-European marketing campaign to push the sweets to gamers. 

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The tie-up spans nine countries and centres on a promotion that lets people upload a code found on packs of Skittles to a site in order to try and win prizes including Xbox One consoles.

Skittles picked the Microsoft console over its rivals because it wanted to appeal to the brand’s ‘broader demographic” and not solely focus on gamers or younger audiences. It builds on the Wrigley-owned brand’s efforts from last summer, when it partnered with developer Halfbricks Studios to launch a branded version of the smartphone game “Fruit Ninja”. The app has been downloaded more than 4 million times since and Skittles says its popularity proves there is bigger opportunity to exploit the gaming occasion.

Hannah Collings, global acceleration manager at Wrigleys, says the plan, developed in partnership with shopper marketing agency Mesh, is part of its three-pronged push to become an “entertaining brand”. A more inventive media strategy through online video and experiential sampling, alongside nurturing its quirky tone of voice are the other two pillars, she adds.

A campaign will suport the tie-up until August and is the first in the UK to span all four Skittles products – Fruit, Confused, Wild Berry and Sours. Additionally, paid media on Facebook will amplify the push with video and editorial that fits into the sweet’s wider “Taste the Rainbow” content calendar.

The Microsoft deal runs until the end of the year but the sweet maker says further investment could follow if it clicks with gamers. Skittles has been deepening its links to the demographic in the US for the last five years and upcoming activity signals attempts to bring its European marketing more in-line with the strategies being deployed stateside.

“We want to talk to more people”, says Collings. “At the end of the day we’re in the business of seling more packs of sweets. We want to do it in a fun and enterianing way.”

The campaign follows calls from academics and charities for advergames aimed at children to be banned as food and drink makers face tougher anti-obesity measures from the Government. In May, the debate was reignited after a Channel 4 TV documentary by Daily Telegraph journalist Harry Wallop presented online games as a stealthy way for kids to be targeted by junk food brands.

Skittles says the campaign will be activated in a responsible manner in line with its deal with the Government.

In a statement it said: “As a food manufacturer it is our responsibility to provide our consumers with the information they need to make the best choices for themselves and their families  – whether that is in the aisle or at the checkout. We are proud to be leaders in our work on clear and consistent labelling, responsible marketing and improving the nutritional profile of our products – most recently reducing the calories of all of our single-serve products to below 250kcal as part of the Government’s Responsibility Deal. We fundamentally believe that wherever they pick up our products, consumers can feel confident in enjoying them as part of a balanced diet and healthy active lifestyle.”

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