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Why Coca-Cola’s in-game flavor ad validates Fortnite as an advertising platform and metaverse

Players will be able to experience the next Coca-Cola flavor inside Fortnite before it hits real-world store shelves.

The drink brand’s use of a custom-built Fortnite island to launch the limited edition game-inspired Zero Sugar Byte flavor today is further evidence of Fortnite’s maturation as an advertising platform – and shows Coca-Cola’s belief in Epic Games’ plans to build the Metaverse.

Coca-Cola opened its Pixel Point Fortnite experience on March 28. The space is a neon-colored virtual world filled with Coca-Cola references, including collaborative puzzles and mini-games inside giant glass bottles and Coke cans. It was designed by the Fortnite Creative arm of gaming company Team PWR, with creative input from Coke. “There were guardrails — we had to be careful from a brand perspective,” said Chase Abraham, senior director of creative strategy at Coca-Cola. “But we gave them a lot of freedom.”

Epic Games, the developer of Fortnite, was not directly involved in the activation. Instead, Coca-Cola worked exclusively with Team PWR to design the experience. As companies like PWR cement their relationships with big brands like Coke, this kind of independent partnership is proof that a robust creator economy is taking shape on Fortnite, similar to the rise of creator studios in Roblox.

“It just seems like the elevation of Fortnite experiences – working with brands, bringing them to Fortnite alongside official Fortnite collaborations,” said Team PWR founder Lachlan Power.

As for low-calorie Zero Sugar Byte, it’s the latest iteration of Coca-Cola Creations, a series of limited-edition Coke flavors that debuted with the release of Coca-Cola Starlight in February. Starlight was allegedly a space-inspired flavor; Zero Sugar Byte’s marketing materials describe it as “pixel flavor”.

Another line that stood out from Coca-Cola’s message was its description of Zero Sugar Byte as a “drink born in the metaverse” – the persistent, immersive Internet successor that some experts believe will emerge from the game. Games has been open about its goal of building the metaverse for years, going so far as to offer workshops educating brands on how to use its Unreal Engine three-dimensional authoring tool, recent years have seen competitors emerge at the both social media and the NFT/blockchain space. Ultimately, Coca-Cola’s choice to introduce its first Fortnite activation as a metaverse game is an endorsement of Epic’s longstanding claim to the virtual world.

“For us, the metaverse just meant a digital place where people could come together and experience it,” Abraham said.

“By activating within Fortnite, I think they are taking a safe path, as Fortnite is a huge, brand-safe game,” said Tom Sweeney, head of creative strategy at the agency. of social media and influencer marketing Fanbytes. “But, most importantly, they recognize that the game and the ecosystems that have evolved from the game are the foundational elements of what we will come to recognize as the metaverse.”

Along with giving Epic’s metaverse aspirations a boost, Coca-Cola’s decision to enable Fortnite also signals the game’s arrival as a major advertising platform. A host of major brands, including Marvel, Balenciaga and the NFL, have dipped their toes into Fortnite since 2018, but Coke’s involvement could convince even more to explore the game.

“Coca-Cola is one of those brands where I don’t think they’re cutting edge; what they are is the gold standard of branding,” Sweeney said. “And so when Coca-Cola comes along, and they say they tap into that particular part of the culture, that, for me, validated it — and certainly from the perspective of other brands.”

Regardless of Coca-Cola’s influence, the brand’s involvement in Fortnite has grown significantly in recent years. As Coke worked with the PWR team to develop the Pixel Point experience, he was well aware of the potential for players to feel drained by the brand’s involvement in the game, ensuring that PWR was building the island so that stand alone as an entertaining experience.

“The ultimate goal for us is to deliver a unique and authentic experience every time, and Coke saw that vision firsthand with us,” Power said. “We were like, ‘we don’t just want to put a billboard in a creative experience; we want to be part of this collaboration and part of the experience that you’re building in this world.’”

Sweeney thinks consumer burnout in Fortnite is a real concern, but not a big brand like Coca-Cola that should be particularly concerned at this stage of the game. For now, seeing a brand like Coke get involved in Fortnite is even more likely to spark player excitement than skepticism, especially through player-designed experiences like Pixel Point.

“When a brand recognizes a game and legitimizes it, it becomes a point of pride for that game’s community,” Sweeney said. “They’ll say, ‘Coca-Cola sponsors Fortnite – so surely it’s better than other games.

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