By and  on May 18, 2005

It appears on every PlayStation and Xbox video screen sooner or later: the dreaded "Game Over." But activewear brands like Nike, Adidas, Reebok and Puma are just beginning to play in the video game arena.

In "Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2005," Woods wears the Nike swoosh logo on his polo shirt, baseball cap and even golf club. In "NBA Live 2004," players can choose the Nike shoes their basketball player wears, from Air Foamposite Pro Colorway 3s to LeBron James' choice, Air Zoom Generations. And in "NFL Street 2," receivers are wearing Reebok's NFL line of apparel.

Sportswear product placement in video games is increasing fast, and with good reason. According to a 2004 report by the Entertainment Software Association, video and computer game sales in the U.S. reached $7 billion in 2003 and continue to grow. That makes gaming almost as big as the U.S. movie industry. (Domestic box-office returns have hovered around $9.5 billion for the past three years, according to the Motion Picture Association.) The average gamer is 29 and expects to be playing as much or more 10 years from now. And girls and young women now account for about 39 percent of game players, a figure that is steadily growing.

Those demographics are exactly who activewear brands are trying to reach. "Gaming is a part of many of our consumers' lifestyles," wrote Barney Waters, vice president for Puma North America, in an e-mail. "It makes sense for us to be there."

It's a natural fit for Nike, too, and the brand now appears in many video games related to its various sports lines. Tiger Woods, a Nike-sponsored athlete, appears at virtually every sporting event in the company's apparel, even if it happens to be in a video game. "The folks at EA (game maker Entertainment Arts) are all about authenticity," said Nike Golf marketing director Chris Mike, referring to the company's partnership with the video game maker of "Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2005." "If Tiger Woods is in the game, he's going to be wearing our apparel."

The advantage of video game advertising over traditional television placements, said Richard Skeen, vice president of advertising sales for ad agency Massive Inc., is that games are "immersive."

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