For several years now, players in the Real Money Gaming (RMG) ecosystem mainly roped in male actors as their brand ambassadors – case in point being Hrithik Roshan, Salman Khan, Shahid Kapoor, Shahrukh Khan etc. and others who have featured in campaigns for various platforms.
As a result, the category has been dominated by males for quite some time now.
However, an interesting approach to the RMG segment was brought in by Khelraja, who in December 2022 had announced Esha Gupta as their brand ambassador. In another instance, an online rummy gaming portal A23, which has Shahrukh Khan as its brand ambassador, had launched its new series of ad films under its ‘Chalo Saath Khelein’ campaign featuring actor Rakul Preet Singh and digital creator- Niharika Naga Malneedi.
As per A23, the new ad film shows Rakul Preet Singh and other players enjoying a game of darts, each with their own unique style of play and Singh goes on to talk about how players can choose from a variety of Rummy formats on the A23 Rummy app, best suited to their skill set.
A23’s ad campaigns featuring Rakul Preet Singh:
Nisha Sampath, Brand Consultant and Managing Partner, Bright Angles Consulting, stated that the rationale behind the RMG player picking up a female celeb for their ad may be based on the trend of how the numbers of women gamers are growing.
“While this would mostly be smartphone games, they may sense the opportunity for women to start playing for money as well. It’s a smart business move by the brand, in a category that is still traditionally male-dominated,” she added.
According to the Interactive Media Venture Capital Fund report on gaming in 2022, the number of female gamers in India was found to be on the rise with a 60:40 Male: female ratio.
She also went on to add that for most Indians, playing for money is ‘gambling’ and still carries a taboo. “In fact, Rakul Preet Singh herself has been facing flak in some sections of the media for promoting a gambling platform and as a result, her own image could take a hit, particularly in the more conservative South market. But to be honest, I don’t think many women celebrities would take the risk to promote playing for money, unlike male celebrities,” Sampath added.
Furthermore, she also went on to highlight that Singh does not have a natural association with taking risks or being a rebel, hence, this works in her favour, as it implies that any woman can enjoy gaming.
“I think the brand has used her as an endorser simply to invite women to the platform. A woman endorser in a traditionally male-endorsed category will also get a good cut through for the brand, even with the male audiences,” she opined.
Similarly, Lakshmipathy Bhat, SVP - Global Marketing and Communications, Robosoft Technologies, also stated that even though he is not a big fan of celebrity advertising, the choice of celebrity, in this case, helps the brand be distinct in the context of other RMG ads which mostly feature male celebrities.
“I don’t follow the category closely and would be hard-pressed to recollect which celebrity is associated with which brand. So, there was perhaps an opportunity to cast the protagonist as a character and not just as a talking head,” he said.
Bhat also emphasised that the choice of celebrity may help build affinity among a wider audience and get them to come into the fold of RMG but at the end of the day, it is still a game of chance.
“The ‘play together’ and ‘play responsibly’ messages seem like a balancing act. I think this coming from a woman celebrity scores a better chance of getting through inclusive messaging,” he added.
As per Shubho Sengupta, Director, Media and Creative, MyGov India, the unfortunate scenario is such that despite making up over 50% of the population, it has always been a male-dominated society and breaking free from the patriarchal structures is going to take some time.
“Any ad campaign, anywhere will be a male-dominated one, and this time A23’s move of featuring a female celebrity was the right move because female gamers are growing rapidly and the growth rate is very fast. Therefore, as a responsible marketing manager, I would try and get a warmer name and this has been done across categories and I would rather see it as a sensible marketing move rather than an elephant in the room,” he added.
Sengupta also went on to add that there are certain strategic imperatives which come from data and specifically in the gaming category, the number of women gamers are on an incremental increase and that too on a rapid basis, therefore in his views, it’s an obvious move to feature Singh in the brand commercials as the brand’s target audience does coincide with her audience in this case.
According to Sampath, women, by their very DNA, prefer saving and planned spending, rather than risking their money strongly and therefore, even when they invest in the stock market, they take more cautious risks than men do.
“Additionally in India, the taboo on gambling is likely to affect women more strongly than men. The image that comes to mind is the scene in Mahabharat, where Yudhishthira lost his fortune and family (and ultimately his wife) to Shakuni, in a game of dice. These old mythologies still have a hold on us culturally,” she pointed out.
However, she also added that this is not to say that women will not adopt gaming for money. “Their style and spending pattern may differ from men. Either way, it’s a worthy endeavour to invite them to play real money games, because only then can the platforms can learn more about them, and build better products that appeal to them,” she opined.
Unlike Sampath, Sengupta does not believe in the notion that women are generally more conscious when it comes to spending money and paying attention to details when compared to men.
In his view, because there are international games as well which are designed for women by women and India is one of the global economies, it was bound to happen at some point as the traditional categories have already featured women in the centre stage of their ad campaigns for years.
“Therefore, it's only logical that gaming also follows the same trends as the traditional and new age brands are doing in terms of their ad campaign which showcase women in the centre,” he added.