Marketers: Catching them all could be back on the cards

Remember when Pokémon Go came out, and marketers went crazy?
Millions of downloads around the world, a huge surge in popularity and cross-generational appeal made marketers weak at the knees. The most downloaded mobile game of all time, it topped the charts in 55 countries simultaneously within a month of release, sparking speculation about how advertisers could make the most of the unparalleled reach.
Unfortunately, the options for using the platform for marketing were limited. Chester Zoo capitalised on interest by offering £5 entry after normal opening hours on a couple of “PokeMondays”, allowing players to go Pokémon hunting across its 125 acre site. Local businesses fortunate enough to have a Pokéstop nearby (my local pub included ????) could put lure modules down to encourage players to spend time at their sites. Further than that, the much hyped marketing action never really appeared.
Until now.
Celebrating a year since the game’s phenomenal release, Niantic, the makers of Pokémon Go, teamed up with Chester-based Big Heritage to host a unique heritage event across the weekend of the 22nd & 23rd of July.
120 historic sites were turned into Pokéstops (not including the large number that already existed), noticeable by the “Sponsored” images you could see when you opened the Pokéstops in-app. Trainers could take part in a range of activities around the trail, as well as exploring Chester Castle, which opened to visitors for the first time in over twenty years.
Pokémon Go at Chester Heritage Festival event map
While the “Pokémon Go festival” in Chicago, that ran simultaneously, turned out to be a disaster, the unique tie-in event in Chester was a storming success. It’s estimated that around 16-18,000 people visited the city from around the world, with Pokémon trainers from as far away as Chile travelling to Chester to attend the event. Organisers think the extra visitors spent an additional £3million in the city in just two days.


It helps that Chester is packed full of historic and cultural sites that draw international tourists, giving an fascinating landscape for people to explore without the addition of augmented reality. It also helps that our home city has organisations like Big Heritage, who worked with the game developers to make it happen.
So could this mark the beginning of something big for marketers?
The sight of all the crowds showed that despite losing 79% of its users after the first few months of its existence, Pokémon Go still has a powerful user base. On a personal note, I had difficulty leaving my flat on the Saturday morning because of the densely-packed crowd outside my door (yes, I live next door to a Pokéstop).

Bridge Street in Chester full of Pokémon Go players

Picture: Steve Casey Photography


The addition of the “sponsored” images on the Pokéstops combined with the obvious success of this event hints that similar events could be created in the future, perhaps first co-ordinated with DMO’s and tourist organisations before spanning into commercial businesses.
The failures of the Chicago event, with patchy network coverage and game servers crashing under the load show that Niantic Labs and the Pokémon company still have some work to do before these events can be rolled out on a larger scale, but it looks like there’s something big on the horizon.


If nothing else, it’s shown that thinking outside of the traditional marketing toolkit can drive real results for tourism organisations and similar organisations. Augmented and virtual reality apps have already been adopted by a number of DMOs, like Visit Scotland, to allow visitors and potential visitors to experience the area in a new, immersive way – Pokémon Go collaborations are just one more tactic for marketers to explore.
We’re really looking forward to seeing what comes next. If you’d like to get ahead of the curve and start exploring virtual reality options for your organisation, get in touch with our specialists now.

Written by Hollie Hines

Content & Social Media Specialist

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