Julie Shumaker, EA's marketing director, hinted that interested marketers include package-goods companies for products like deodorants, soap, cologne, and snacks. Ms. Shumaker also wants to sign advertisers to sponsor items, such as clothing that players buy in the Sims' online marketplace to outfit their characters. To access the marketplace, players would link to an EA Web site with updated brand material.
"This is one of the future models that I think you'll see emerging in this space," she said. "An advertiser can participate in a game with EA at any point going forward and not be dependent on a launch date for a game," Ms. Shumaker said.
Marketing for Sims 2 captured a new gaming audience-women ages 13 to 34-partly by reaching them where they hang out online. Freestyle Interactive, sibling agency of Aegis Group's Carat Interactive, reached out to users of Yahoo instant messaging by letting them become Sims characters whose IM chatter appears in the bubble over their heads. More than 1.5 million unique users employed Sims IM and 682,000 clicked to the EA Web site since the launch.
The gaming demographic is becoming broader, said Mike Voorhaus, managing director-media and entertainment research at consulting firm Frank N. Magid Associates. But video games still appeal primarily to young men, ages 13 to 24, whose attention is increasingly straying from network TV, he added.
That male-leaning trend is reflected in additional brand-integration pacts EA has sealed for fall game releases. Advertisers are spending 15% more per deal this year than last, said Ms. Shumaker. EA's overall ad revenue in games is growing 60% over last year.
DaimlerChrysler's Chrysler brand is sponsoring content on the Madden NFL 2005 game. Burger King backs a virtual store that's part of some of the story lines in racing game Need for Speed Underground 2, and Best Buy appears in storefront signage and on a souped-up car.
General Motors Corp.'s Pontiac is behind the NCAA March Madness 2005 game. "You cannot underestimate the power that video games have today," said Dino Bernacchi, Pontiac advertising manager.