KFC invites customers to kick a** with the Colonel in Street Fighter 6 

Fast food chain used Street Fighter's customisation tool to turn its mascot into a playable character, rewards gamers who use it

KFC Canada has turned its iconic mascot, Colonel Sanders, into a playable character in Capcom’s Street Fighter 6 video game. As part of the KFC x Street Fighter 6 campaign, players are given the chance to win a CA$50 KFC gift card by recording the Colonel scoring kick and punch combos against opponents in the game and sharing their videos on social media platforms tagging @KFC_Canada.

The campaign was created with the brand’s agency of record, Courage, Toronto, and launched on 6 July 2023. Gamers have until 31 August 2023 to use the character and enter the competition.

To get the Colonel into the game, the brand used a feature in Street Fighter 6 called Recipes that allows any user to create a playable character and share it with others by entering a unique generated code. The code WFFCHCV5A unlocked a bulkier version of the Colonel than fans may have seen before, but it maintained his most recognisable attributes, the quaffed white hair, black-rimmed glasses and goatee.

KFC Canada shared a 45-second ad across its social media channels, showing clips of the Colonel in action in the game. The spot also instructed people on how to enter the competition, all under the tagline ‘Record combos to get combos’.

Contagious Insight 

It’s game time / By aligning itself with a game that holds a significant esports presence and nostalgic status, KFC was able to reach a sizeable audience of potential new customers and make its brand relevant to them. In addition to the 2 million global sales the game has already achieved, it will form the battleground for the Capcom Cup, an esports tournament that streams live on YouTube and Twitch and holds a hefty total prize pot of $2m. While the Colonel’s character is unlikely to feature in the tournament, by moving quickly to get involved with the game during the opening months of its launch, when anticipation and engagement is high, KFC Canada is capitalising from the anticipation and engagement around the new title.

In recent years KFC has made numerous plays to connect its brand with the gaming community. In 2019, the QSR giant launched an AI based predictor service for live competitive League of Legends games. Around the same time it also created a Japanese-inspired dating simulator game. In an interview with Contagious, Andrea Zahumensky, chief marketing officer at KFC US, explained the brand’s association with gaming: ‘We absolutely look at ways to be relevant in the broader pop culture conversation and be entertaining for new customers. Our long-term strategy is to continue to serve our core customers while reaching new audiences by making the Colonel a part of pop culture, ultimately creating a new generation of KFC diners.’

The gaming industry has become a big marketing opportunity for brands beyond KFC. A Statista report projected that in Canada, revenue in the in-game advertising market will reach $500m in 2023, with compound annual growth estimated to be 4.7% across 2023-27. For context, TV advertising revenue in Canada in 2022 was $1.2bn, but this figure had fallen by 44% vs 2021.

Access all areas / For KFC, hijacking Street Fighter 6 was a low-budget way to build buzz and reinforce its most distinctive asset. As KFC’s Zahumensky told us previously, ‘Compared to our competitors, we tend to have smaller marketing budgets, so we are constantly looking for ways to make our dollars work harder for us.’

An official partnership with the game could have been costly, so instead the brand used the same tools that any player has at their disposal to bring Colonel Sanders into the game in a way that made it fun for players to engage with the brand. Tom Kenny, chief strategy officer at Courage, said: ‘With the introduction of Recipes to Street Fighter 6, we saw an opportunity to connect with gamers organically through our most iconic brand asset, and create a value exchange that’s authentic to the gameplay itself.’

Putting the Colonel at the front and centre of the campaign also aligned with KFC’s ongoing strategy to champion its distinctive asset, a move it calls ‘re-colonelisation’. ‘Our underlying strategy is finding new, interesting and provocative ways to make Colonel Sanders a part of pop culture,’ said Zahumensky. ‘Over the years, the Colonel has been an inflatable floatie, WWE wrestler and a cat climber.’

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