Why Karta is the right team to bring sports into the metaverse
In our trends for 2023 article at the start of the year, we reiterated the importance of sports organisations engaging with gaming as a means of fan engagement. That’s no surprise when over 90% of Gen Alpha and Gen Z are gamers, with 70% regularly watching gaming content. The savviest sports properties have responded with gaming-led content and immersive experiences that have seen incredible levels of engagement from a sought after demographic. But how have they navigated this space – and who builds these experiences?
In an increasing number of instances the answer is our newest Sports Loft member company: Karta, the metaverse studio that’s “making brands playable”. With a strong understanding for how fan-based organisations can grow and nurture their next generation of supporters, Karta is providing sports, musicians, entertainers and brands with the means to engage fans and consumers where they spend their free time – gaming.
The power of shared experiences
Much like sports fandom, gaming is a social experience – one that spawns culture and subcultures both around and within titles. The games we get into as kids are often the direct result of what our friends or family are playing. We continue to play them in part because we enjoy spending time with people in those environments. This shared experience spawns conversations and content outside of games – whether it’s discussing how best to tackle a particular quest with a friend, or YouTube personalities streaming to audiences of thousands.
So when we met Karta CEO and founder Erik Londré in early 2022, and he clearly articulated why culture and community-building are important in game development, we felt those were strong foundations on which to build.
“I believe so strongly in events as a medium because they make passive consumers into active participants,” says Erik. “Sports fans by their nature are active participants and express their fandom to friends, fellow fans, or rival supporters. This makes them ideally suited to metaverse environments. It gives fans a platform to express this fandom, and enjoy shared experiences with other fans wherever in the world they might be.”
Fish where the fish are
The most appealing games to activate in are those with cultural relevance. Karta has made a conscious decision to focus on platforms that have major player bases, creating experiences in Roblox (202m active monthly users) and Fortnite (85m) for the likes of Unilever, Amazon Music and one of the EPL’s leading teams. These massive audiences mean teams and brands can engage fans where they already are, and create powerful engagement by making activations a shared experience.
“We’re seeing brands say ‘we must do something in the metaverse’, and running activations on platforms that have limited user bases or the wrong audience. Then getting next to no engagement,” says Erik. “If you’re looking to attract new fans you need to be reaching out to them where they spend their time. We see Roblox as an opportunity to reach kids in that crucial seven to nine-year-old bracket, where lifelong club allegiances can be formed. Whereas Fortnite is an opportunity to reach a slightly older audience, giving these fans further opportunities to engage with their team.”
Karta identifies the platform that makes most sense for a client to reach their desired target market, and then leverages their in-house development team to create new playable experiences based on client IP. That might sound simple, but building something that gamers enjoy playing and return to is tough – particularly given the quality and budget of top games developers. There’s stiff competition for people’s time and it’s not enough for sports teams to just show up in Roblox or Fortnite. So, we were blown away by the performance of some of Karta’s existing activations – including over 43m visits to Unilever’s Sunsilk City, 6.3m visits to their EPL club’s Roblox activation and a cumulative social reach of over 11m for Amazon Music’s One Take Fortnite tournament.
We see this success as a result of Karta’s thorough understanding of building fanbases and deep sector knowledge of gaming, enabling them to create genuinely engaging experiences.
A new frontier
So, why is now the time to build a presence in these worlds? And why is a specialist studio required?
“I think it’s two-fold,” says Erik. “One, the pandemic forced a rethink of marketing, at a time when many of us were gaming a lot. But two, the likes of Roblox and Epic Games (Fortnite) have opened their arms to brands creating in their games, and are making it possible to monetise them through the sale of in-game merchandise. For sports teams it's a space to activate fanbases and develop partnerships. The teams and brands that have dived in are seeing incredibly compelling metrics and a much deeper relationship with younger audiences.”
Having studied Karta carefully over the past twelve months, we strongly believe that Erik and the team have the potential to become the go-to studio of choice for sports entities, music artists and brands of all sizes when it comes to navigating the metaverse. Whether helping teams take their first steps to build a fanbase in gaming environments, or running large-scale and ongoing immersive experiences, Karta have demonstrated the creativity and quality of execution needed to build a significant business in the emerging metaverse industry.
We’re excited to support them in this next stage of their growth story: growing their client base, and scaling their organisation to provide even more insight and engagement for partners. Welcome Karta!