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Holiday Inn Express Ad Goes After Gamers – Esports Marketing Series

This post will be the first of a series where we discuss hits and misses in the esports marketing world.

I saw an ad on TV a few days ago and while I would have normally ignored it, this one caught my attention. It was for Holiday Inn Express, and the TLDR (“too long didn’t read”) here is that they’re trying to capitalize on the esports trend (or at least tap into that universe of customers), but don’t seem to fully understand the market. That’s always a dangerous combination for brands. Here’s the ad:

I was borderline amazed when I saw this. Holiday Inn Express is a huge mainstream brand, advertising on a traditional platform (TV). There are few non-gaming or non-tech brands these days that are targeting the esports market, and even fewer that are doing it in traditional channels.

While the initiative is admirable, and Holiday Inn Express is definitely ahead of the curve, the execution is lacking. The ad smells of a big brand trying to capitalize on something that seems current and relevant, without really understanding the market.

Here are the most obvious issues:

  • Breakfast and manicures are definitely not the most effective selling points for a “gamer”. Why nothing about super fast wifi? Or wired connections in rooms? Or desks to put gaming laptops? Maybe consoles in every suite?
  • Distributing the ad on TV is likely wasted media dollars (or at least not optimal). If the target here was 18-35 male gamers, there were better and more cost-effective places to put the ad.

What do you guys think? Have you seen any other mainstream brands use traditional platforms to try to reach a gamer audience?

Part marks to Holiday Inn Express for making the effort to reach this incredibly lucrative customer base. Most traditional brands aren’t even aware they exist. Unfortunately, Holiday Inn Express is guilty here of going after a market they don’t fully understand. I expect we will see an increasing number of these brand “misses” as the esports industry continues to grow and gets more visible.

Going forward, we will be introducing three awards here, which we will give out to brands who we feel have done something great in esports (whether it’s an ad, an initiative, an acquisition, etc). We feel it’s important to recognize the efforts of brands who are paving the way for others to get into the industry, are forward thinking, or just kicking ass in general. The three awards are (from worst to best) silver, gold, or pogchamp, as follows:

Unfortunately, Holiday Inn Express did not earn an award for this effort, but we give them credit for trying to reach the gamer customer and look forward to seeing how they improve.

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