Marko Jevtic is the product marketing manager for Nordeus’ Top Eleven franchise. He leads the marketing team, and has worked in digital marketing for over ten years.
“Community management is important to us, and we have a presence across various social media platforms,” Marko detailed. “Market research is also part of my responsibilities.”
Before joining Nordeus, Marko worked on creative, digital strategies and as a media guide for clients like Visa and Samsung in Europe. Nordeus made the offer to Marko, which he saw as a great opportunity, noted that one year in the gaming sector is like 20 in other industries.
“I’ve always been curious about free-to-play gaming; I’ve noticed that freemium is changing the world, that’s something that will change other industries as well,” said Marko. “What’s the value to the user when everything is free? I learned a lot in the first couple months here.”
From Start-Up to Top Eleven
Nordeus is a European based company that is headquartered in Belgrade with offices in Dublin and London. The company has won awards as the best gaming start-up in 2011 and has been named one of the best employers in south-east Europe. The main reason for the company’s success is the football manager game Top Eleven.
“Top Eleven started as a Facebook game but moved over to mobile. It was one of the first cross platform games between mobile and Facebook,” Marko noted. “We were among the most popular Facebook games and we among the first football games to switch to mobile in 2011.
“Our players are dedicated and play a football game every day. It’s also important to be where our players are, so that’s why we started shifting focus to mobile.”
The Dream of Being a Football Manager
Jose Mourinho has been endorsing Top Eleven for a few years, so the current Manchester United manager has been in a few campaigns for the game before. However, a lot of attention has come from their involvement in the Head vs. Heart Euro 2016 campaign.
“In 2013 we signed Jose, and that led to big success,” said Marko. “We were among the first mobile games to use a celebrity promotionally and it was a huge boost for us. He was the manager for Real Madrid back then. It was a successful deal which is still on, we think he embodies what we want in the brand. Football management is a niche sort of game, but if you see him, you immediately think of the top levels of real-life football managers.”
The Head vs. Heart Euro 2016 campaign got started with an attempt to connect with the large football tournament (namely Euro 2016) but also doing so in a unique way. In order to differentiate their campaign, they talked with Google’s creative agency that helps brands build things based on their insights.
“What we discovered is that everyone thinks they know who should play, everyone thinks they can do the manager’s job,” Marko said. “So we thought it was important to focus on that insight. There’s the idea that when it comes to choosing the starting players a manager only uses their heart, their gut feeling. Now with the rise of moneyball in football, numbers-based analytic decisions are on the rise. So the decision now is whether you think with your head or use your heart.
“People in Europe don’t have the fantasy of being like Messi or Ronaldo since they don’t have those skills, but they do however see what managers are doing and think, ‘we can do that’. From that we got the idea of using some famous YouTubers who are making predictions using their hearts and having Jose come in and use the data.”
Marko said the day of the shooting was maybe the most stressful thing he’s ever done. There was a traffic problem in London, so Jose’s taxi was having difficultly getting to the studio. In the end though, it all turned out well and Marko says that Jose really enjoyed the shoot.
“The actress we had playing the cleaning lady was great and we were laughing off screen,” said Marko. “We were practicing with her, and our consultants said, ‘You have to make it real. You can make it fake easily, but making it real will make all the difference’,” Marko noted. “This process is important if you want to make a great campaign. We had another component to the campaign in dynamic interactive banners where ask questions like, ‘What will you decide? Should Rooney play or not?’ That was like a sneak peak of Top Eleven.”
The ad has gone over so well it won a silver Lovie award (which is like the Webby awards, but it’s exclusive to Europe). It’s a significant accomplishment to Marko and the team at Nordeus. “We started as an engineering company and our awards were initially because of that. The marketing is showing that we have evolved as a company,” said Marko. “It proves that we are in the right direction, and we can’t wait to show what else we have been working on.”
Using Celebrities the Right Way
The recognition for the Head vs. Heart Euro 2016 campaign is great, but it’s only one part of Nordeus’ ongoing promotional efforts. The company has ongoing TV campaigns in the U.K., France and Germany accompanying the major European football leagues, and that’s part of the larger trend F2P games have in targeting large mainstream audiences.
“Traditionally, F2P mobile games have relied upon acquisition through digital channels. It’s much easier to measure CPI than with TV. What is happening now is that games like Clash of Clans and Game of War are becoming big brands,” noted Marko. “We’ve put a lot of money into reaching this audience that might be only half paying attention to an ad and looking at their smartphone anyway. It’s important to build a story to these sorts of campaigns so you can reach the audience and get them engaged.
“You need some creative strategies behind the ads, some need some good call-to-actions in the game. If you haven’t played the game, you may not know what it’s all about, so part of the ads should be explanatory. There should also be things that current players get as well; it’s not only about attracting you but also retaining them.”
There’s an element of tapping into the cultural zeitgeist with these ads, and that’s part of the reason why using celebrities like Machine Zone has with Mariah Carey and Kate Upton for Game of War: Fire Age. Seeing recognizable things like that We have a campaign around a football club in the U.K.” said Marko of recognizable elements. “Audiences are much more likely to watch the ad and remember it with a celebrity. Sometimes people remember the ad with the celebrity but they don’t remember the product, but you need to be careful. I think best example is The Clash of Clans ad with Liam Neeson; people will remember the spoof on his Taken character but there’s a gameplay, as well.
David Radd is a staff writer for GameSauce.biz. David loves playing video games about as much as he enjoys writing about them, martial arts and composing his own novels.