Yes, you read that right! Chambers of commerce have a very unique opportunity to support their members (and even provide more member benefits) through the popular mobile game, Pokémon GO.
If you haven’t heard of it, Pokémon GO allows players to turn the real world into the Pokémon world through augmented reality (AR) on their smartphone. The game absolutely took off worldwide when it first launched in 2016, especially among Millennials who grew up playing Pokémon video games and watching its movies. They could finally find and catch their own Pokémon—in their own backyard!
Which brings me back to why chambers should get involved: The game is set up to drive players to explore their communities to catch Pokémon, collect items, and challenge each other. And now, your members can actually become an official part of the game:
PokéStops and gyms
To take a step back: the items and challenges we mentioned? Those revolve around what are called “PokéStops” and “gyms” in the game.
Players have to visit PokéStops in order to collect PokéBalls, which are needed to catch Pokémon. (They can be collected a couple of other ways, but visiting PokéStops is easiest, and most common.) And gyms are where players go to train their Pokémon and challenge each other.
As you can tell, that makes these locations very important to playing. Players need to keep visiting PokéStops in order to keep playing—and being able to fight each other’s Pokémon is probably the biggest draw of the entire game!
The thing is, these locations are ACTUAL real world locations. They’re libraries, local landmarks, churches, pieces of public art—even water towers are known to be in the game. But many are also grocery stores, restaurants, coffee shops, hotels…
(You can probably see where we’re going with this by now!)
How to get involved
In order to go ahead and release the game, Niantic (the developer and a Nintendo partner) chose these locations on their own based on data from a previous game.
And of course, once companies saw just how popular Pokémon GO was, many wanted to be a part of it to drive actual real-world foot traffic to their locations. Since 2016, that's really only been an option for larger companies and chains. (Niantic even brokered a deal with Starbucks to turn over 7,000 locations into sponsored gyms and PokéStops.)
Niantic recently announced that they will soon be releasing a self-serve platform where small- to medium-sized businesses can pay a fee to sponsor their location and become a PokéStop or gym.
Details are a bit light (they’re just now accepting applications for Early Access Beta Testing), but don’t be afraid to start talking to you chamber members about it now! Specifically the members that rely on that foot traffic: imagine the value you’d be providing by bringing them a new, modern, innovative idea to drive more business.
In fact, here are a few ways you can support your investors (and even the community at large) if they DO become a PokéStop or gym:
Cover the fee as a member benefit (according to Niantic, it’ll be $30-$60 per month depending on the option the member chooses)
Promote PokéStops and gyms in your community on your website (be sure to give a special highlight to those that are chamber members!)
Host Pokémon GO events for the community—perhaps with extra incentive to visit member locations
Create a Pokémon GO scavenger hunt comprised of JUST member locations
Host “how to” meetings for your members to help them get the (Poké)ball rolling and promote their location
Go big and broker a deal with Niantic yourself! Why not try to get all of your members sponsored under one umbrella account?
It may seem a bit niche (and even a little silly) but engaging members with out-of-the-box programs are the kind of thing that’ll stand out at renewal time. As our world becomes more global, they’ll need to stand out, too!
And for more standard member engagement tips and best practices (who doesn’t need a little refresher from time to time?) be sure to download our guide. Get your free copy below!