When Activision Blizzard’s hot game in the “Call of Duty” series hits stores this week, players will be able to drive across virtual battlefields in a digitally animated Jeep.
If they enjoy the ride, they’ll be able to buy a real-life version of the tough-guy vehicle, thanks to an unusual and ambitious partnership with the car company.
A special-edition Jeep will go on sale late this month branded with the “Call of Duty: Black Ops” name. The agreement between Activision Blizzard Inc. of Santa Monica and Jeep’s parent, Chrysler Group LLC, includes a joint marketing campaign scheduled to run until the end of the year.
In the past, a few cars have been co-branded with movies, but this is apparently the first time a vehicle and video game have gotten into such a relationship.
Mike Hickey, an analyst who tracks Activision, said he was surprised to hear about the “Call of Duty” Jeep. Usually most video game-related merchandise is more modest.
“It’s one thing to sell action figures,” Hickey said. “Now you’ve got a video game that’s taking shape in a large vehicle.”
Neither party would disclose terms of the deal, but both automotive and video game experts have suggested that Jeep likely paid Activision for the product placement. Activision benefits from the marketing campaign for the Jeep, which will include ads during National Football League games.
“It really allows us to get our message out there in a different way,” said Jeff Kaltreider, a senior director of marketing at Activision.
And Jeep gets exposure with the giant fan base of “Call of Duty” and its younger demographic.
“This game is one of the largest anticipated releases this year. The reach is pretty phenomenal,” said Kim Adams House, head of Jeep advertising and communication. “What better opportunity to expand the reach of our brand to the 18- to 34-year-old males who play the game?”
The game publisher approached Jeep in March about becoming the game’s automotive partner after the game developer, Treyarch, came across the Jeep when researching vehicles that would have been used by the military during the Cold War era.
Treyarch designers met with Jeep executives to help them integrate the vehicle into the game’s single-player storyline and its online multiplayer version.
“The Jeeps in the game are very realistic compared with those used in combat in the Cold War era,” Kaltreider said.
Jeep decided to take the partnership one step further by designing a real vehicle similar to the one in the game.
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