There’s a hard truth for the retail banking industry—Gen Z consumers aren’t that into you. A growing percentage of them are making money in new ways, so they don’t want to settle for traditional banking products, services, and channels.
Social media influencers, gig economy workers, and esports gamers don’t get a steady paycheck. These members of the “creator economy” have fluctuating, non-secure incomes, with taxes, fees, and other non-traditional considerations attached. They don’t carry cash and have little need for checking accounts since they don’t write checks. And they could be worth $480 billion by 2027, according to Goldman Sachs.
Ally gets in the game
Instead of lamenting how banking consumers are changing, digital financial services company Ally is helping to shape new banking experiences by tapping into the passions and preferences of creators and influencers—particularly female gamers, says Beth Woodruff, senior director of brand strategy, integrations, gaming, and innovation at Ally.
“Gaming is an interesting space to explore, especially coming out of COVID,” she says. “It's been a big part of our ecosystem for the past six to seven years. We've really leaned into gamification and we felt like we had the authority to because we're a digital native company.”
Ally first started a few years ago with a presence in the kid-friendly Minecraft game, offering a digital world of activities to teach kids about financial literacy. It then expanded with activities and live events in Animal Crossing and Fortnite, live online multiplayer games popular with young adults.
Most recently, it moved into the competitive and lucrative esports world, where tournaments and athletes can be worth millions of dollars. Taking a cue from Ally’s 50/50 Pledge to commit to invest in men’s and women’s sports equally, Woodruff’s team chose to sponsor female esports athletes and tournaments for Rocket League, a game that’s essentially “soccer with cars.”
“We really wanted to look at Rocket League and see how we could be a partner in that as well, knowing that female esports teams and individuals are all underrepresented.”
Ally aims to win with female gamers
Women make up 48% of gamers in the U.S., but only about 5% of professional esports athletes. And when it comes to earnings, even top female esports athletes make less than 1% of what top male esports athletes earn. Woodruff says the organization saw an opportunity to build relationships, provide new opportunities, and “be an ally” to this often-overlooked community.
“The new creator economy is trying to monetize their skills and craft to find a path to financial stability,” she says. “It's a really good place for us to show value to our customers that we see them, we see the things that they're involved in, and the things that they love as they create meaningful spaces.
“We know [sports are] a pipeline for women to grow both financially and in their career, but they have to be given the opportunity,” Woodruff adds. “So the commitment really was to give these women a podium to stand on to show how amazing they are, and then they should get the money they deserve as part of that. At the end of the day, it's all about creating this path to wealth.”
Being an ally for women esports athletes
During Women’s History Month in March, Ally partnered with women-owned esports production firm Raidiant.gg to host The Ally Women's Open Rocket League tournament in North America and Europe with a $20,000 prize pool for each event. The North American event had over 16,000 peak viewers, a key esports metric.
The sponsorship is also designed to help elevate amateur and semi-pro players by expanding access to talent scouts and other high-profile Rocket League tournaments, which can eventually lead to larger financial opportunities by competing in the Rocket League Championship Series (RLCS).
“These women need a platform,” says Woodruff. “A lot of these women are looking to make this their financial income generator, but they don't have a platform to showcase what they’ve got.” The tournament is not just for winning prize money, but also for getting exposure to advertisers, scouts, and people looking to sponsor athletes, she adds.
Earn the right to talk to gaming customers through authenticity
Ally’s steps to support the gaming community aren’t done in a vacuum. The community, mostly made up of younger consumers, values authenticity in their customer experiences. They won’t fall for flashy messaging without credibility to back it up.
Woodruff says authenticity is paramount to creating a strong relationship with younger banking customers. Her team includes young passionate gamers who help represent the voice of the customer. “We have a real intentionality about bringing in real gamers into the space, not marketers,” she says. “It's really critical that we approach this space with authenticity and that we're really showing this community that we see them first and foremost, and then we want them to engage with us as a brand.”
There is no hard sell in the company’s online spaces, either. The Ally Arena in Fortnite and Minecraft Fintropolis world have no products as part of their spaces.
“This younger generation is so much more eager to do business with organizations that fit their value set, that have causes that they are passionate about,” Woodruff says. “We’ve built a robust social listening team that engages actively on these platforms to really talk about these subject matters. We are really intent on being part of the dialog.”
Fun and games equals results
Ally’s investment in female gamers and others in the community is part of a concerted effort to be seen as a valuable brand to members of the creator economy. Woodruff shares a sense of personal and professional pride about it.
“Overwhelmingly the response we had to both our partnership with Rocket League and the Women's Open has been just so incredibly positive, understanding that there is a need for this and that women need to be better represented here,” she says.
Successful business results help feed progress, as well. “When we show up as an innovative and intelligent brand, conversion is infinitely easier for us,” Woodruff adds about the impact on the business. “It leads to a six times higher conversion rate when they have that level of interest in our brand and they see our brand represented that way.”
*Header images photo credit: Uriel Espinoza