‘Gaming is very much here to stay’: Why Axe body spray is taking a bigger swing at esports marketing

esports gamers

Axe body spray is dedicating more ad dollars to esports, gaming and entertainment-based marketing channels to attract a bigger share of Gen Z shoppers.

Axe isn’t alone in its push into esports and online gaming. Earlier this year, Digiday reported that esports brand partnerships are on the upswing with brands like Garnier Fructis and Honda making investments as the channel gains traction.

It’s a play for the Unilever-owned legacy brand Axe, which started repositioning itself last year, to stay relevant with the younger, ad-blocking generation as new competitors flood the market. 

“That audience is obviously quite different to previous audiences in terms of media mix,” said Caroline Gregory, global brand director of Axe body spray. “Therefore, the approach of how we market them is quite different.”

While linear television advertising remains the bulk of Axe’s marketing budget, the brand has spent the last year ramping up both spend and efforts in gaming, entertainment, streaming, digital commerce and social media, especially TikTok. It’s unclear exactly how much Axe spends on esports; Gregory declined to offer further details.

“Because we’re a brand focused on guys, we spend more money in gaming, entertainment, streaming, digital commerce and a lot of money in social,” said Gregory.

So far this year, Axe has spent more than $15.3 million on advertising, significantly down from the $148.6 million spent in 2021, according to Kantar. Those numbers do not include social spend as Kantar does not track those figures. The brand spent $8.4 million digitally to date, slightly down from the $11 million spent last year, according to Pathmatics. That digital spend has seen a major shift: Axe shelled out $1.8 million on TikTok this year as opposed to no budget last year. There’s also now $295,000 dedicated to Snapchat. Meanwhile, Facebook and Instagram spend decreased from $1.4 million last year to just over $560,000 this year. And spend for streaming skyrocketed from $612,000 to $3.8 million, Pathmatics reported.

Axe experimented with gaming in markets outside of the U.S. before. But stateside, it’s a newer marketing channel, Gregory said. Over the summer, Axe marked its presence in Fortnite, partnering with world-famous streamer Kyle Giersdorf. And recently, e-sports adjacent platform Twitch has become a mainstay in the brand’s media mix, Gregory added.

“We’ve seen great metrics as a result of the work in gaming, with increased purchase intent on the brand, increased awareness amongst that younger audience,” Gregory said. She did not disclose further details.

Gaming marketing has been surging as brands look to the channel as a way to draw in new consumers, especially younger consumers who are averse to traditional advertising, says Nate Swift, chief strategy officer at OKRP ad agency. 

“All in all, Gen Z is still open to advertising but it might not look or feel like traditional advertising,” he said via email. “It’s not seen as an interruption like traditional advertising can feel.”

This year, eMarketer estimated that more than half of the U.S. population will become digital gamers with ad revenues expected to reach $6.26 billion this year, up from $1.43 billion five years ago. And ahead of the predicted economic downturn, marketers believe esports will weather the worst of it, according to previous Digiday reporting.

“For brands, the sector doesn’t just offer an avenue through which to connect with a younger and sizable demographic, but also, new platforms to showcase their offerings, generate revenue, and fuel brand awareness,” John Reposa, technology lead at Barbarian ad agency, said via email. 

For Axe, there are plans to continue riding the esports, gaming wave as long as it lasts. “Gaming is very much here to stay. So it’s certainly an area where we are going to continue and scale up,” Gregory said. 


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