A Chicago startup is looking to score more business with the nation's upcoming focus on March Madness, thanks to client MillerCoors and a partnership with Buffalo Wild Wings.
Box Score Games creates mobile games to be played while watching sports events. Brands can license the games, with players who win prizes pushed into brands' loyalty programs for redemption.
The company's goal is to keep customers engaged during a time when attention can veer away from mobile devices, said co-founder Thomas Derhake.
"We don't get in the way of the experience. People can watch sports and play our games at the same time," Derhake said.
The games are largely passive — players don't have to do much while participating in a game. Instead, scores are tied directly to actions in the live event.
Its Fantasy Pizza game had players receive game pieces whenever a particular event took place during a game — a particular team made a certain number of tackles or returns, for example — and rewarded winners with free pizzas.
Box Score Games have been played more than 750,000 times and have garnered more than $50,000 in prizes for players, Derhake said.
The company could get its biggest exposure to date during the NCAA basketball tournament — also known as March Madness. Client MillerCoors plans to use the game Jump Ball to promote Coors Light at about 80 Buffalo Wild Wings locations. The beer company piloted a similar program with Box Score Games through a different chain last summer.
MillerCoors licensed the game and will provide promotional items to notify users of its availability while at the venues, Derhake said.
A spokesman for Miller Coors confirmed the company is working with Box Score Games on a program with Buffalo Wild Wings to drive engagement during the tournament but wouldn't give details.
Derhake and partner Michael Lynch founded Box Score Games in 2013, with the first games being built as individual apps for bars, before switching to a focus on brands.
Last summer, the company switched to multiple games played in a single app.
"You can play numerous different sorts of games depending on your interests," Derhake said. "It's one single location everyone can go to, download and play different games."
Box Score has six employees, although 12 people — including outside contractors — can be involved with the development of any one game, he said.
The company is privately funded and recently received $25,000 in financing from Chicago-based Laveer Growth Capital.
App users provide information including favorite teams and interests, which can be used for marketing.
The concept stands a good chance at success in capturing the attention of mobile device users, said Christopher Steiner, entrepreneur in residence at The Garage at Northwestern University.
"If they can get the traction, it does something nobody else does in mobile right now," Steiner said. "This is kind of the holy grail — getting the consumer engrossed in something that can be viral and embedding that brand within the whole experience."
Cheryl V. Jackson is a freelance writer.