How brand partnerships and promos helped bring the Xbox One X to life

Doritos and Xbox One X promo

The highly anticipated Xbox One X console is being released to excited gamers on November 7. The anticipation has built over several months of coordinated efforts between Microsoft, a lineup of key brands and a small agency, Tripleclix, that deals with the gaming industry.

The console probably didn’t need a lot of hype to appeal to hardcore gamers – the first round of pre-orders was the fastest round of sellouts Brent Coyle global lead, Xbox Partnership and Promotional Marketing at Microsoft, has ever witnessed. But to reach new gamers and appeal to a wider audience, a highly-tactical, continuing promo, rotating through brands was created. It saw different promos engage fans with the chance of winning an Xbox One X before its release, in addition to other valued Xbox prizes.

One promo that got the ball rolling was a teaming with Taco Bell and Microsoft, with help from Tripleclix, for a September promo. It kicked off by building a Taco Bell arcade at a gamer conference where people could try out the console. The campaign kicked off that day and tempted gamers with the chance to win the new console when they bought the Steak Quesarito $5 box. Each box included a unique code for consumers to text in for a chance to win the new Xbox One X. Throughout the duration of the promo, a potential winner was notified on an average of every 10 minutes. Winners were the first to get their hands on the Xbox One X, as well as the game Forza Motorsport 7 and a three-month Xbox Game Pass subscription with their console.

The campaign was supported with marketing on food containers, in-restaurant displays, and through targeted and branded social media, as well as a TV spot that highlighted animation of some Xbox game characters alongside live Xbox players.

“150 million people in the US see a Taco Bell ad once a week,” said Chris Erb, Tripleclix founder and managing partner. “Taco Bell lives on traditional media. There’s nobody that buys media better than Taco Bell. And they do a ton of social.”

Subsequent promos and campaigns featured a Totino’s promotion for Shadow of War that featured the Xbox One X. The collaboration between Xbox, Mountain Dew and Doritos (two brands tied to hardcore gamers) had players banking points to bid for a chance to win an Xbox One X and other prizes. Other promos included work with Under Armour and Jack Link’s. These all helped build excitement around the release and kept consumers engaged for months.

Finding a lucrative niche in the gaming industry

Erb founded Tripleclix in 2014 after stops at Legendary Pictures, EA Sports, and Hasbro. He knew there was a need for a company that could give brands exposure to videogame players through exclusive authentic content that gamers would actually appreciate, and saw a niche opening for a growing market.

“I’ve been 25 years in gaming world… I wanted to do lifestyle marketing for gaming. There are not a ton of agencies for the gaming space,” he said. Erb added: “We’re trusted by brands and publishers. We see ourselves as the connective tissue between brands, consumers and publishers – that’s Tripleclix.”

Erb had plenty of experience with gaming and lifestyle brands, including with EA, Sega, Fifa, Kellogg’s, Monster Energy Drink, Ubisoft and launching the first Xbox with a Taco Bell partnership. Soon after launching the agency, the gaming industry started coming directly to them, and brands have followed.

“Now we have brands coming to us as well, asking us to help navigate the gaming space. Our agency is different. It’s consumer first… building programs with brands and giving something to consumers they love,” he said.

The agency, which has less than 10 people, is making huge headway in the gaming space and is helping with the rise of e-sports as well, which is a fast-growing market. Instead of working against other agencies, however, they are actually working with more traditional agencies, helping connect brands and the gaming industry.

“We’re uniquely positioned to be at the epicenter of gaming marketing. We’re on retainer with some of the biggest companies in the world.”

While most might think of the traditional gamer as a kid in a basement with a headset, glued to his computer, he sees a broader audience – one that has an average age of 34, he says, and they appeal to them by changing tactics depending on the game or console being promoted.

“What we tend to do is change tactic by who we’re going after. We’re doing a ton of stuff with art and music,” Erb said.

To that, Tripleclix coordinated a campaign last year with rap duo Run the Jewels. They got rapper Killer Mike and producer El-P were featured as playable characters for the Gears of War 4 game. It let Tripleclix dig deeper and create true fan connections with the game, letting them essentially “do marketing without doing marketing,” according to Erb.

“We’re being true to who we are as an agency. We don’t buy advertising, don’t spent money on social. How do we make sure we’re taking care of the gamer?” he asked.

The agency is gamer-first in focus, giving them an authenticity with brands and fans.

Promos over traditional advertising

Utilizing promos over traditional marketing extends the life of the campaign and helps build hype for the release of a new console and a new game. Timing things so the promos don’t overlap too much ensures that every brand involved has exclusive windows in different categories.

“We are making sure that all their brands have their moments. We look at these brands as launch partners, building long-term relationships. The benefit for us is that it extends the window. We’re less worried about fatigue. Xbox is everywhere and this is a big moment in gaming. We’re using brands to amplifying it,” said Erb.

It’s been a boon for Microsoft and Xbox as well.

“It’s insane, but at the same time, super rewarding and super exciting,” said Coyle regarding the extended launch. “When we have a ton of these promotions going on, it creates conversations in unexpected places. It’s great when you get validated by another partner who sees greatness and wants to be a part of it, like Taco Bell, Doritos and Under Armour.”

Coyle said that when they launch a product, they’re making sure their passionate core is aware and hyped up about the release. Connecting with that core group is important, he said. But he also knows the promos help extend the message because “there’s a gamer in everybody’s lives” and even if a friend isn’t into gaming, they might talk with a friend who is and extend the conversation.

Gaming, he said, is about helping push the technology forward and getting the developers, who he calls artists, to put out their vision – their art – in the purest way possible. So the more people who get the new Xbox and the more people who play help extend that vision.

“That pushes everything they’ve been working so hard on in entertainment, and the experience is going to better, more immersive,” said Coyle. He added that gamers were the original bingers, and that other industries (like television and streaming) are finally realizing this.

“Gamers are spending hundreds of hours on these titles – they’re digital masterpieces in many cases. Other industries are finally catching up – consumers want to do things on their terms,” he said.

Working with Tripleclix on the Xbox One X launch helped get the word out in a way that Coyle thinks other agencies couldn’t.

“Other agencies try to pitch the business, but they don’t understand the industry. The detail we need to go into with developers – to do right by them, they need to trust you,” he said, which is why Microsoft has solidified its relationship and sees bigger things to come.

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Kyle O'Brien

I am a reporter for The Drum covering a wide array of topics but always trying to tell the best stories possible. I am a former west coaster from California and Portland, Oregon, now living in Pennsylvania — with time spent in NYC each week.

I also play saxophone professionally.

All by Kyle