Dr. Pepper Runs Offline Promotion for Virtual Goods in Electronic Arts Games

By Eric Eldon Comment

Virtual goods are still emerging as a meaningful method of advertising. In a creative and large-scale new test of the medium: Electronic Arts and soft drink maker Dr. Pepper announced a campaign today where EA game players can find promotions for virtual items on more than 500 million Dr. Pepper bottles and fountain cups.

The idea is that you’ll want to buy Dr. Pepper more if you know you can redeem part of your purchase within your favorite game. For the rest of 2010, at least, the codes found on Dr. Pepper containers can be entered in at the Dr. Pepper promotions web site. Once you’ve provided the beverage maker with your personal details, you’ll be taken to your EA account (you need one of those, too), where you can choose from a selection of items.

Currently supported titles include Battlefield Heroes, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Mass Effect 2, The Sims 3 and┬áSpore, although EA plans to expand the promotion to more. In online team shooter Battlefield Heroes, for example, the code can provide up to four unique sets of clothing for players’ avatars.

The two companies aren’t saying how revenues are being split. Presumably, Dr. Pepper is paying EA some amount that roughly equals the cost of virtual items in the game?

Users are already going offline to get access to in-game goods. Major online games have been selling pre-paid gaming cards for virtual currency at convenience stories and other chains, with a big surge in 2009. Today, everybody from social game developers like Zynga, Playdom and Playfish to massive multiplayer games, virtual worlds, and others sell currency offline. 7-11 recently said it had doubled its card sales and as a result it is doubling its card inventory to include more titles.

These cards — and most likely, this promotion — are targeted at teenagers who play online games, and who can only pay in cash. This demographic also likes soda and the other sugary items that 7-11 sells. It’s pretty easy to imagine a kid going to 7-11 and using their cash allowance to buy some junk food, a game card and a Dr. Pepper (so they can get even more points), then settling in for a well-financed afternoon of online gaming.

Promotions for virtual goods are only one way that advertisers are trying out the medium. Other examples include branded clothing in virtual worlds like IMVU, branded pokes in Facebook app SuperPoke, and branded seeds in FarmVille.