How New Balance taps into gaming and metaverse

By Jalaja Ramanunni

In today’s fast-paced marketing landscape, brands constantly seek innovative ways to connect with consumers and stay relevant. New Balance, a global footwear and apparel company, has taken a unique approach to influencer marketing and gaming trends, prioritising authenticity and partnership over traditional sponsorship strategies. In an interview with Campaign at The Retail Summit, New Balance’s marketing executives, Chris Davis, Chief Marketing Officer & Senior Vice President of Merchandising, and Jeff Mcadams, Vice President, Global Marketing, shared their perspective on these topics and their forward-thinking approach to engaging with consumers.

Tech trends that excite: gaming

One of the tech trends that excites New Balance as marketers is gaming. They have established partnerships with NBA 2k, Major League Baseball, and Global Football Gaming. “We launched shoes through video games that consumers can purchase or design through video games,” shares Mcadams. Additionally, they have integrated their brand into in-stadium and out-of-home placements within the gaming world. Six months ago, New Balance also created a dedicated team called “Gaming and Metaverse” within their global marketing group to explore the potential of the metaverse, taking a patient approach and seeking partnership opportunities with technologically advanced partners.

Dwell time and intimate engagement

New Balance acknowledges that gaming offers unique opportunities for brand engagement that social media cannot replicate. They value the concept of dwell time, which refers to the amount of time consumers spend engaging with a brand in a gaming environment. “While social media views may last only a few seconds, gaming offers 15-20 minutes of brand interaction, allowing for intimate and persistent consumer engagement. New Balance sees this as a valuable metric,” Davis shares.

Staying true to brand values

While New Balance recognises the popularity of first-person shooter games, they are mindful of their brand values and choose to stay away from such games in their gaming partnerships. “If we are not investing in a sport or category in real life, we won’t invest in it with gaming. We avoid first-person shooter games, while we understand those are the most popular ones. However, it does not reflect our brand values,” Davis comments.

Authenticity over advocacy

New Balance stands out in the industry by not paying influencers to wear or endorse their products. Instead, they focus on building authentic partnerships with athletes and entertainers who align with their brand values. They believe in co-authoring the strategy, development, and content with their partners to ensure it comes from an authentic place. “We have a real aversion to what many brands do, just paying influencers to us to wear or endorse their product. That’s not a part of our market. If you see a global campaign, it will be an athlete or an entertainer who was a part of New Balance,” shares Davis. They emphasise the importance of being honest, genuine, and transparent to resonate with Gen Z and millennial consumers who value authenticity in brands.