AT&T casts sponsorship spell over new 'Harry Potter: Wizards Unite' game
AT&T is now part of Harry Potter lore as the first brand to ink a sponsorship deal with the new augmented reality game about the wizarding world.
AT&T stores are incorporated into the landscape of the game, called “Harry Potter: Wizards Unite,” which is by Niantic, the creator of “Pokémon Go."
AT&T acquired Time Warner last year, in a deal that included Warner Bros., the studio that owns rights to Harry Potter. AT&T and Cricket Wireless, which it owns, appear to be the only sponsors in the game so far, which debuted Friday after a soft launch on Thursday.
An AT&T spokeswoman confirmed its involvement in the game but declined to reveal financial terms of the integration. The game includes "inns" and "fortresses" that can be accessed when playing from inside more than 10,000 AT&T and Cricket Wireless retail stores. The Inns and fortresses allow players to recharge their energy, find challenges or encounter other virtual wizards and magical creatures. The promotion started today for AT&T and will kick off on July 15 for Cricket.
The game is positioned to tap into the raging fandom of the Harry Potter books and movie franchise while replicating the success of “Pokémon Go,” which showed the possibilities of augmented reality in mobile games. Starbucks and Sprint became the first U.S. sponsors in “Pokémon Go” six months after it was released in July 2016. Their logos appeared in the game map, in a move to lure players to visit their physical stores to collect in-game perks.
“What’s fascinating about what ‘Pokémon Go’ did with brands and sponsors is they found a way to charge brands to advertise in their own physical space,” says Jeff Danley, director of innovation and partnerships at VMLY&R. “Brands are paying to have their logos placed in that virtual space. It’s kind of a mind bender.”
Indeed, location and augmented reality have proved a powerful combination for marketers and platforms. The mobile AR market is expected to generate more than $3.5 billion in 2019, according to Nielsen-owned analytics firm SuperData. “Pokémon Go” at its height in July 2016 had 28 million daily users, according to Comscore. Snapchat, Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon are all investing in the technology to cater to new consumer behaviors, whether that’s playing with funny animated filters on selfies or shopping.
The Harry Potter game reached No. 1 on Apple and Google free app stores on Friday, with roughly 400,000 downloads, and generated about $300,000 from in-app purchases, according to Sensor Tower, which tracks app stats. Still, that lags “Pokémon Go,” which generated 7.5 million downloads and $2 million in its first day.
“I don’t think ‘Harry Potter’ will be quite that sort of sensation, but it is getting talked about,” says Will Margaritis, senior VP of e-commerce and digital marketing at Dentsu Aegis Network’s Sellwin Consulting. “It sounds like Niantic has learned some lessons and put more content into it, but with ‘Pokémon Go’ no one had seen that sort of thing before.”