Keeping young people interested? Make them race like Verstappen!

Keeping young people interested? Make them race like Verstappen!

Ziggo organizes eBattles for Formula 1 fans

These days it is hard to interest youngsters in brands or products. Nonetheless, VodafoneZiggo has found a way to mobilize these 'millennials'. Games and sports are the key words.

Millennials (born between 1980 and 2000) are quite cocky and like to do their own thing. They are hardly susceptible to old-fashioned advertising or marketing. Their power to concentrate is extremely short-lived and their attitude is critical. It is difficult to hold their attention, especially when you are pursuing a commercial goal.

"Fortunately, Ziggo came up with some appealing ideas that touch the right chord in young people", says Mart Roumen, who works at the Brand Publishing Hub, domain sports. "By combining games and sports we manage to draw their attention to our entertainment offer."

Ajax-PSV: the kickoff
The love between gaming and Ziggo blossomed in the build-up to the football match Ajax-PSV on 16 December 2016. "To get the fans interested and mobilized, our team came up with the idea to play the FIFA computer game on the centre spot in a full Amsterdam Arena", says initiator Mart Roumen. "We called it the Ziggo eBattle. That idea gathered momentum, with qualifying tournaments in both stadiums and a grand finale for the two winning teams: gaming on the big screens right before the kickoff."

It became a huge success, without having spent one cent on advertising. "A simple invitation to the qualifying tournaments resulted in more than 3,000 participants in no-time. We realized we had a trump card in our hands. Since then, we have been able to interest a great many youngsters in our entertainment offer, including TV channels and Ajax sponsoring. The campaign was also nominated for several professional awards. We had struck gold!"

Follow in Max’ tyre tracks
When a few months later Mart was asked what Ziggo should do to reach more young people in the huge Formula 1 campaign, the next step was a logical one: the ‘Ziggo ebattle F1’ was launched. "In this virtual reality race the participants are seated in a Formula 1 simulator. They race against each other on the Grand Prix track that all the fans are looking forward to. The ultimate Max Verstappen feeling!"

At first Mart had not expected that this event would have the same effect as the football game. "The Formula 1 game is less spectacular than FIFA. Which is why we started small-scale with a modest set-up in a shop at Utrecht Centraal. We had invited former race-driver Robert Doornbos to give the participants tips and talk them through the race. 

Fans queueing for the shop
There was an onrush of people. In the afternoon and early evening a flood of fans were queueing up for the shop for their five laps in the simulator. "We moved the shop to Hoog Catharijne, where we could set up ten simulators in a row. We also launched a livestream on gamers platform Twitch, and had the ten fastest drivers of each race battle it out. The final winner took on Doornbos in the final, each Friday in the Formula 1 Café. At the end of the season we finished with an actual National Championship eBattle. That event took place in the largest TV studio of Hilversum.

"The results were overwhelming", says Mart. "Research showed that brand preference had increased enormously among the participants, with nearly 80 percent belonging to the milennials target group. The Ziggo Sport programmes became better known and the eBattle developed into a phenomenon for approximately 30 percent of the Dutch population. It was one of our most successful campaigns of 2017."

Touring the country in a bus
Every measurement shows that the Ziggo eBattle is best known among gamers living in the Randstad area and among Formula 1 lovers. They constitute the majority of the number of entrants in 2017. Since there is not much to gain in both target groups with regard to brand awareness and participation, Ziggo’s mission in 2018 is to broaden.

"We vacated our temporary shop in Utrecht and are now touring the country with two buses to visit people. One bus goes to municipalities and the other calls in at festivals and home matches of Ajax. In addition, we have expanded the Ziggo Dome with a race set-up, enabling visitors of concerts to race against other while they are waiting for main acts like Racoon or Lenny Kravitz. You are going to see us everywhere."

"At VodafoneZiggo we think in possibilities", Mart concludes. "A plan like the eBattle would never have materialized if we had not given our colleagues some creative freedom. The crazy idea of ‘gaming on the centre spot’ developed into a national phenomenon immensely enjoyed by thousands of fans. And that is exactly what we have in mind with our entertainment."

Companies that are involved in a large event themselves and also want to treat their visitors to the Max Verstappen experience can contact Mart on

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Foto's: Pim Geerts