Advertising in Pokémon Go won’t stop at sponsored locations

Gotta monetize ’em all!
Gotta monetize ’em all!
Image: EPA/Piroschka Van De Wouw
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The maker of Pokémon Go has already said sponsored locations are coming to the game, and there’s speculation that an early sponsor might be McDonald’s. Now an investor in Niantic Labs, the game-maker, says sponsored items are in the pipeline.

David Jones, whose firm You & Mr Jones became Niantic shareholders in February, says there has been a “deluge” of interest from the world’s biggest brands who have contacted him about ways to get involved in Pokémon Go, and that brands will be able to sponsor ”specific products” within the Pokémon Go world in the future. “You will absolutely be seeing that and you will be seeing it done in a way that adds value to the game rather than detracts,” he says.

Jones, a former chief executive of advertising agency Havas, was originally sought out by Niantic as an investor because of his contacts with top brands, according to an earlier Niantic announcement.

He points to a speech given by Mathieu de Fayet, Niantic’s vice president of strategic partnerships, at the Vivatech conference in Paris two weeks ago. De Fayet previously worked with advertisers at Niantic, when it was still a Google subsidiary, and at Google itself. The Niantic executive gave a talk on how augmented reality, the technology in Pokémon Go, could “re-enchant” the shopping experience.

“I can’t wait to see the potential with Pokémon Go where going to a pharmacy will heal your Pokémon, or going to a fast-food chain will get you berries to feed them,” Jones said, recollecting examples de Fayet had given in his speech.

Jones refused to be drawn on specific details of coming product sponsorships, saying only to look at what Niantic had done with Pokémon’s predecessor game, Ingress. The first retailer to advertise on Ingress was the pharmacy chain Duane Reade in 2013, which offered in-game weapons and codes to players at its stores in New York City. The game also offered virtual shields branded by the insurer AXA.

Small retailers are already experiencing a surge in sales from Pokémon Go players who might need a slice of pizza or a drink as they hunt nearby creatures. When Niantic strikes deals with global brands, the game could send far larger streams of foot-traffic and sales to retail outlets. “If you’re suddenly getting ten times the store traffic because people are coming in to get a rare Pokémon or a particular egg, it will deliver massive brand impact and sales uplift,” promises Jones.