Youngsters Connect with Hasbro at Nerf League Games
Even in the best of economic times, marketers struggle with whether or not to bear the full cost and responsibilities of a proprietary property. So when Nerf decided to launch its Nerf Dart Tag competition in 2009, the thought was, “Have these guys been hit too many times in the head with their spongy balls?” The answer, of course, was no.
Nerf Dart Tag is a cross between laser tag and paintball. All of the equipment required for play is naturally part of the Nerf Dart Tag product line, which includes single shot and semi-automatic dart blasters and target vests (a starter kit includes a pair of vests, blasters and protective eye goggles). The goal of the game, which is played in a custom-designed inflatable “Battle Dome,” is to hit Velcro targets on the opposing team members’ vests with a Nerf dart blaster loaded with Velcro darts.
To give the game an extra dose of legitimacy (think Frisbee Golf) the brand created the official governing body, the Nerf Dart Tag League (NDTL) and set off on tour last summer holding competitions in 15 markets including five in partnership with the AST Dew tour, an existing property with shared target demos and broad national consumer and media reach. Scrimmage games were held in between tournaments, so fans that didn’t want to venture into the Battle Dome got a chance to take part in the sport. The championship took place in Orlando where winning teams of four in several age groups vied for a $25,000 prize.
In addition to the tournaments, the brand held activation initiatives with key retail partners including K-Mart, Toys “R” Us and Sears where brand ambassadors handed out NDTL premiums including wristbands, temporary tattoos and Nerf Target Sets, as well as informational brochures on the upcoming tournaments. In the end, the tournaments and retail tours netted 4,300 registered NDTL players and 20,000 consumer interactions.
To tie the whole league together and facilitate contact between Hasbro’s NDTL and its eager consumers (mostly boys 8 to 12 years old) the brand put up a microsite at hasbro.com/nerf/ndtl where players and prospective challengers can get info on upcoming games, register for the league and buy products.
Hasbro created the proprietary tour to drive sales but as the program evolves it may also enjoy the perks of self-sufficiency, potentially using tournament entry fees to offset program hard costs and opening events to additional sponsorship revenue and partners (for instance the AST Dew Tour). What brand wouldn’t love a program that pays for itself?