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How the Australian Open Measures Roblox Success

Inside look at how the top tennis & sports brand evaluated the ROI of its gaming activation


Since FC Barcelona offered its official jersey in the Roblox avatar shop in 2019, sports brands have been entering Roblox to connect with young audiences. It’s been interesting to see that there's a mix of non-US sports entities (Manchester City, McLaren F1 Racing, FIFA, Wimbledon, UEFA) as well as US ones (NFL, NASCAR, and very recently NHL).


How to Measure Brand Success on Roblox

Regardless the industry, when a brand launches an activation on Roblox, it’s fairly easy to gather top-line data on how that campaign performed.


Custom Game

If the brand built a custom game, you can check out how many lifetimes visits, favorites and user ratings directly from the game page.


Game Integration

If a brand did an integration into an existing game or several games, like Metallica did to great success to promote its new album, then you can see many visits those games got during that period using RomonitorStats.


UGC Virtual Items

And if they launched UGC items in the Roblox Avatar Shop, you can see how many favorites those items have received. The more favorites, the more sales that item generated.


But what other data is there that can signal to a brand whether or not their activation is working and whether or not it was worth their investment? Well, it turns out that there’s a lot of data available, but most brands aren’t willing to share it publicly.

The Australian Open tennis tournament, however, is an exception. Tennis Australia's Ridley Plummer, who oversees metaverse and Web3 initiatives, was kind enough to share with us lots of data that we’d never seen before around UGC, game engagement, player geography and more, all which add additional context around how to measure and evaluate branded Roblox activations.


Through a convo Ridley and I had for my Metaverse Brands podcast as well as data Ridley shared directly, I was able to gain a much deeper understanding about the AO Adventure Roblox game, which I had previously written about after its release.


Here’s what stood out to me from Ridley's interview and the data he shared.


Goal-Setting

Set Your Overarching Objective Up Front

Ridley said that their overall goal, across metaverse and Web3 initiatives, was to make the Australian Open the world's most accessible sports and entertainment event. It was through this lens that they evaluate opportunities to bring their brand to life across different technology platforms.


How do they define what being "accessible" means? Well, they look at it a few ways. It can mean providing affordable tickets to locals in Melbourne and having a free area onsite that can be accessed by anyone during the event. It can also mean placing a fan who might not be able to travel to Melbourne in a virtual environment where they can experience the event through an accessible platform like Roblox.


Setting an overarching objective to begin with helped Ridley and his colleagues through their decision-making process and ultimately deciding Roblox would be a good fit from the very start.


Strategy

Audience, Innovation, Revenue - Pick Two

I’m a big fan of the following framework: Good, Fast and Cheap - you can only have two. This concept forces people to think through what it is they really want the most. So I thought it was so cool when Ridley shared his version of this idea.


The three main KPIs Ridley works towards are...

1) Audience (attracting new people to the brand)

2) Innovation (which is key to all of his work, but also hard to measure)

3) Revenue


In his view, innovation and audience will drive revenue. But if you put innovation and revenue first, audience can get left behind. For that reason, revenue was not the focus on Roblox. Roblox was all about audience and innovation.


But where revenue came into the picture was in terms of offering existing brand partners a way to tap into the audience and innovation that the AO was creating on Roblox. By being an early adopter on Roblox and leveraging existing sponsorship partners, the AO was able to bring in notable brands such as Emirates Airlines, Kia, Polo and Mastercard.


And by offering brand partners the chance to activate on Roblox alongside the Australian Open, Riley and his teammates offered them a way to extend their partnership beyond only 2 weeks a year (which is how long the tournament lasts IRL) to a full 52 weeks a year.


From an audience perspective, the game has been very successful for the AO and its partners. It has over 8.5 million visits to date, and AO believes it's on track to hit 10 million visits by June.


Player Demographics + Geography

Broadening the Brand's Global Reach

As we’ve seen from other sports organizations like NFL, there’s lots of interest in leveraging Roblox to reach younger audiences. And as we’ve heard from Wimbledon, there’s also interest in using the platform to help a brand reach international audiences.


Ridley added more color around these objectives because the same was very much true for the AO, which was interested in extending its reach to a new audience of younger players it doesn’t traditionally reach. Within their native Australia, they talk to young audiences really well. But for an international audience, they are not well known as an event.


According to Ridley, ideally they want this young international audience, in the future when they are old enough to travel in the world, to have the Australian Open at the top of their bucket list. If these younger players have a good experience with the AO Adventure, then some of them will develop a connection with the brand and want to come someday IRL. In my opinion, that's a very long view, which lots of organizations would be fearful to take, but it's a smart one because it embraces building strong bonds over time.


So how did the AO do in terms of reaching younger audiences around the world? Well, the data they got back data pointed to strong success.


Thus far the game has attracted over 4.2 million unique players.


Age

  • Under 13: 49%

  • 13-17: 18%

  • 18+: 33%

In terms of reaching a younger audience, the experience definitely was on the mark.


Game’s Top Territories:

  1. USA

  2. Brazil

  3. Philippines

  4. Russia

  5. South Korea

Australia was in 15th place. Only 2% of players came from the Australia / New Zealand region.


Based on these results, the AO was very successful in expanding to reach an audience beyond their local market.

Emirates obby featured ice cream, clouds and walkways to navigate.

Sponsored NPC Engagement & UGC Fulfillment

Giving Brand Sponsors New Pathways to Partner

The AO's biggest brand sponsor on Roblox was Emirates Airlines. To integrate the Emirates brand into AO Adventure, the Australian Open team, in conjunction with Roblox development studio The Gang, created an Emirates-branded play area, NPC, and obby (obstacle course). For those players who completed the Emirates obby, they were gifted a free UGC item, an Emirates plane that they could wear / ride all across Roblox.


I can attest to the massive appeal of this free UGC plane from personal experience. I learned from watching a tiktok video that the way to get the Emirates UGC item was to complete the obby. I then spent at least 10 minutes trying to complete the obby, and I was unfortunately unsuccessful. By why did I keep going after failing time and time again? It’s because I wanted that darn airplane UGC! It was so cool looking, and I’d never seen anything like it before on Roblox. I wanted to add to my UGC collection and to stand out by wearing it in other games.


As you can imagine, the Emirates branded integrations were a huge success.

  • The Emirates obby has been completed over 1.7 million times to date.

  • 60% of users that collected the Emirates UGC plane wore it for more than 2 minutes

  • 670K+ engagements with Emirates NPC

All together, that adds up to a lot of meaningful player engagement time with the Emirates brand, not to mention the Australian Open itself.

Dwell (Avg Session Time)

Deeper Engagement Than Expected

When the AO set out to create this experience, Ridley anticipated seeing average session time (or “dwell”) in the 6-7 minute range based on his research. So he was very pleased when Roblox reported back an average time of around 15 minutes.


That’s the beauty of being active in a space early. You won’t know how your brand will do, unless you dive in and see for yourself. If you sit on the sidelines waiting to see what your competitors do, you’ll never get data back to help you learn how to successfully show up in these spaces and reach young audiences.


That above-average dwell time speaks to the game's success at holding player attention. Whether they're attempting to complete the obby to win the free UGC from Emirates (which I still haven't done despite trying yet again while writing this article) or playing the tennis mini-game, the AO Adventure is doing a great job of holding player attention.

Mini Game Playing

Game / Product Metrics

In addition to dwell, there are other data points that can signal how successful a game is. Ridley shared data that I haven't seen much of from other brands around mini-game engagement.


Besides the Emirates obby, one of the main game mechanics in the AO Adventure is a tennis game, where players can compete against each other or an NPC.

How effective was tennis at driving player engagement?


Tennis playing results:

  • 2.8M (77%) played once

  • 688K (17%) played 10 times

  • 168K (5%) played 25 times

  • 45K (1%) played 50 times

What jumps out at me are the 45K people who played at least 50 times. Wow, these are the super fans! These are the people who helped drive the dwell time up overall to 15 minutes. They also likely captured all of the UGC items throughout the game.


These, and likely the 168K that played tennis 25 times, are the ones that have built the strongest brand loyalty with the AO. And if these people have this loyalty, that leads to higher lifetime value (LTV) for the AO.


And you know what? I'm guessing that when these super fans grow up, some of them will actually go to the Australian Open in Melbourne in person. By making such a strong impression on 45K-168K young players in their target audience, the AO shows that you can start to measure and forecast future success with campaign data today.


Congrats to Ridley and his colleagues on their success. And thank you so much for sharing so much awesome data with us!


Does your sports brand want to reach a young, international audience? If so, we can help. Just email hello@metaversemarcom.io


Stephen Dypiangco is the CEO of Metaverse Marcom, a strategy and consulting firm helping entertainment and sports brands enter the Roblox metaverse.


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