DJ Khaled’s New Mobile Game for Champs Sports Leans Into 1980s Cool

Sega-like graphics pitch Timberland boots

A quarter century ago, DJ Khaled was a teenage employee at a Champs Sports in Orlando, Fla., but these days the hip-hop and social media star is a strategic partner with the retail brand. They opened a store together in October, and today the two entities are announcing a branded, mobile-minded video game—which looks born from his 1980s childhood—in conjunction with footwear brand Timberland. 

In the Sega-styled game dubbed Secure The Bag, an animated depiction of Khaled drives a time-traveling jet ski, getting teleported to help launch a Timberland boot that he's co-branding in real life. (The name of the new boot is also Secure The Bag.) Players are supposed to collect virtual boots while helping him navigate through different time periods, which are all set in his current hometown of Miami. From prehistoric days with 'Veloci-rappers' fueled by dinosaur hip-hop, to a Magic City that was discovered by beach-loving Vikings, to a future ruled by robots on hoverboards, players have to fend off enemies.

Built with ad agency AKQA, Secure The Bag employs decidedly old-school graphics, giving it an early '80s feel. Yet it also involves a few modern twists—for instance, the player can make the Khaled video game character take selfies while he drives the jet ski.

Here is a 30-second clip from the game:

It will be available via Champs' digital properties, a microsite and Khaled's social channels. About that name: Khaled often likes to advise his millions of social followers with his "major keys" to happiness. One of his keys is to "secure the bag," which translates to maintain your success. 

"Our expectation is that ‪DJ Khaled's fans will be playing the game, sharing scores, and challenging their friends," said Patrick Walsh, vp of marketing, Champs Sports. "The game will drive awareness of and excitement for the upcoming [Timberland product]."

While there will be paid ads via social media channels, Walsh suggested that Khaled's powerful tactics via Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter could drive most of the consumer interest. "[He] is his own media channel," the brand vp said. 

Eamonn Dixon, creative director, AKQA, added that he expects most of the game's usage to happen via mobile devices. "It's no secret that our target audience spends their lives on their phones," he said.  

Khaled seems to spend most his time on an iPhone as well, if his Snapchat game—admired throughout marketing circles—is any indication. So how good a fit the mobile game ends up being for Champs and Timberland should be intriguing to watch unfold.