YouTube currently receives more than one billion unique visits each month, with 100 hours of video being uploaded roughly every minute, making it a premier stage for entertainers to showcase their talents and creative visions to a worldwide audience.
Brands have taken notice of YouTube’s ability to garner audience engagement ratings that have, in certain cases, surpassed television networks. In particular, the gaming industry has leveraged video sponsorships in order to obtain visibility and awareness with online audiences. Ubisoft, one of the video game industry’s premier video game publishers and developers, managed to forge a lucrative relationship with two top YouTube channels in an effort to increase online consumer awareness of their hotly anticipated action-adventure pirate epic Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. They developed partnerships with YouTube channels Epic Rap Battles of History and Smosh to accomplish this objective.
Epic Rap Battles of History uploads bi-monthly videos featuring famous historical and fictional characters engaging in a lyrical duel for rap supremacy. To promote Black Flag, the channel created a musical showdown between dastardly pirate king Blackbeard and infamous mob boss Al Capone. The video is preceded by a brief Black Flag title credit, and the rap battle itself contains numerous lyrical and visual references to the game’s content. Yet another Black Flag image appears in the credits as a clickable link under “Special Thanks.”
Online comedic best friend duo Smosh took it a step further and developed an entire rock anthem music video inspired by the characters, settings, and motifs of Black Flag. Dressed up as the game’s two main characters, Anthony Padilla and Ian Helcox sing about all the glorifiable and grimy details of a pirate’s life. This partnership promotion of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag isn’t the first time Smosh has collaborated with Ubisoft; they previously released a music video themed around the franchise’s Revolutionary War entry Assassins Creed III roughly a year ago.
Ubisoft’s partnership with these two illustrious YouTube channels is remarkably effective. The subtle way it manages to seamlessly incorporate Black Flag into their content doesn’t compromise the integrity of their respective brands. Fan bases generally express disdain when their groups sell out, but this form of promotion was integrated carefully enough to avoid being interpreted as blatant product endorsement.
The relationships are mutually beneficial, as Ubisoft gains access to the channels’ massive online followings, while it affirmed extra legitimacy for both channels due to their association with such a prominent brand and top-tier video game franchise. The financial incentives provided by Ubisoft also allowed both channels to bolster their production values considerably, as evidenced by the fact Smosh’s video was shot on an authentic ship.
Yes, there are blatant banner images promoting Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, but they are short-lived, with the emphasis still placed on the content itself. And probably most important of all, the humor of both videos is still very authentic and true to their creators.
YouTube sponsorship is still an emerging online promotional tool, and will only progress as brands continuously develop effective ways to naturally embed their products into popular video content. However, this new-found promotional opportunity is just one minor aspect of the multifaceted digital marketing realm, and companies should be implementing comprehensive paid advertising campaigns and optimizing social media properties to maximize their overall web presence. Contact ZOG Digital today for an audit.