Zynga, 7-Eleven Link Virtual, Real Goods

Zynga is hoping to expand the reach of its online games through a wide-ranging promotional deal with 7-Eleven that will connect virtual goods with roughly 200 million goods sold in 7-Elevens in the U.S. and Canada.
 
The six-week program kicks off June 1. 7-Eleven has virtual goods codes placed on 35 of its store products, ranging from Slurpees to Big Bite hot dogs. The goods can be redeemed at a campaign site, www.buyearnplay.com, and placed in three of Zynga’s most popular social games, FarmVille, Mafia Wars and YoVille. About 200 million redemption codes will go out, according to company officials.
 
“We’re looking to drive a bunch of new users into our properties and engage our existing users and do some cross-promotion,” said Michael Comerford, general manager of revenue at Zynga.
 
The promotion is an extension of a program begun last November to sell virtual currency game cards through 7-Eleven stores. Zynga game-devoted Web sites have carried reports of the game codes appearing on 7-Eleven products.
 
For 7-Eleven, Zynga’s audience represents an attractive constituency to build loyalty and repeat visits from customers, particularly millennials, according to Stephanie Hoppe, senior director of marketing at 7-Eleven.
 
“We know social networking and social gaming is something they’re interested in,” she said. “We want to give them experiences that they’ll enjoy and will drive them back to 7-Eleven.”
 

The codes are redeemable for virtual goods related to the products, but do not carry 7-Eleven branding. For instance, buying vanilla ice cream earns a customer a Neapolitan cow in FarmVille.
 
The companies have matched up items with the games they think fit most. The male-heavy audience for Mafia Wars can get codes on hot dogs, wings and chips while female-skewing FarmVille is targeted with offers for fresh fruit, bottled water and sandwiches.
 
7-Eleven plans to use national, spot and cable TV spots, satellite radio and print ads to promote the program, which is its largest ever promotional tie-in based on the number of products involved, according to Hoppe.
 
Zynga has become the leading player in the fast-growing social gaming space. It boasts more than 239 million players for its games daily, according to statistics compiled by AppData. Yet its growth has tapered off lately.

The company recently tangled with Facebook, where most of its users play its games, over use of Facebook’s new currency system. The companies last week struck a five-year agreement that will keep Zynga’s games on Facebook.
 
“I’m looking at new areas of distribution and growth,” said Comerford. “Fast growth on a small basis is a lot easier. We’re always looking for new markets and opportunities.”
 
It is doubly attractive to metrics-focused Zynga because it can track exact results from redemptions, Comerford said.
 
“We can understand who is coming into the games, who has never played before and see if it has affected their game play,” he added.