Leveling up your brand in gaming

UM MENAT’s James Dutton says gamers love brands that come up with fun ways of reaching them

Any article about gaming is going to contain big numbers. And the numbers are staggering. But many of these numbers still take some people, even in our industry, by surprise.

While cultural conversations focused on the staggering box office of Barbie last year ($1.5 billion) it barely touches the $8.5 billion that Grand Theft Auto V has grossed, but we’re not hearing much in the media about the scale of the gaming industry.

Gaming isn’t the next big thing. This isn’t the year of gaming. That time has long since passed. Here in MENA, we have 14 per cent of the global gaming population playing and forecasts suggest the industry’s value to almost double by 2028 to $9.6 billion.

This growth is fuelled by substantial investments from countries like the UAE and KSA, both injecting funds into local gaming developers and building world-class e-sports arenas. MENA is poised to emerge as a gaming epicentre in the near future.

But despite all these numbers and the potential they represent, many brands have not yet started playing or have only taken some baby steps. We talk a lot about attention, and where eyeballs are going, but it feels like gaming is often still a blindspot for brands.

Brands have similar challenges, whether it’s a lack of understanding or misinformation, when discussing their gaming strategy. These are really three areas for brands to consider:


One of the biggest questions is why gaming? Many brands view gaming as just another marketing channel to achieve specific objectives. However, it’s essential to shift our perspective and understand what gaming means to players.

We talk much about gamification, but this often unintentionally commodifies powerful human insight around why people are playing in the first place.

Successful brands are those that align gaming with their identity and consumer behaviours, leveraging it to enhance or introduce new dynamics. For example, Burberry’s foray into the Minecraft universe resonated with their commitment to self-expression, providing a platform for their young fans to express themselves authentically in a digital space.


As gaming continues to scale, we hope that the stereotypical image of a teenage boy gamer is long gone. With 42 per cent of the global population now classified as gamers, the gaming demographic is more diverse than ever before.

In MENA it’s expected there will soon be more female than male gamers, nowhere else in the world is this happening.

Despite these shifts, misconceptions about gaming persist, particularly regarding audiences. Brands need to be curious as to what the gamer really looks like.

Data reveals that gaming is now the dominant media for Gen Z at 25 per cent vs Millennials at 21 per cent. Yet media plans aren’t reflecting this split. With Gen Alpha growing up quickly, what slice of attention will gaming represent to them? And what happens if your brand isn’t there?

Brands that take the time to truly understand this audience are currently leading the pack. One example is Neutrogena, which recognised the untapped potential of the gaming community.

Their ‘Skincare for Gamers’ campaign partnered with influential female gamers creating exceptional engagement rates demonstrating the power of understanding and embracing gaming culture to reach new and diverse audiences effectively.


Thousands of games, hundreds of genres, and multiple ways to engage with titles and players is a challenge. While it does require an audit to identify the right fit –there are guiding principles to consider when making decisions:

Maintain authenticity – Ensure your brand seamlessly integrates into the gaming environment and aligns with the dynamics of play. UNESCO’s collaboration with Minecraft to rebuild war-torn monuments exemplifies this approach, offering cultural education while staying true to the specific experience that Minecraft fans expect.

Add Value Gamers love brands that come up with fun and innovative ways of reaching them, particularly when it enhances the experience and enjoyment of their sessions.

Oreo’s partnership with Xbox to create Cheat Cookies capitalised on gamers’ love for cheat codes by offering a physical product that unlocked special features in popular game franchises like Halo and Sea of Thieves.

Brands that are staying true to these principles are the ones currently winning and establishing themselves with generations of gamers to come.

By James Dutton, Chief Product Officer, UM MENAT