Aamir Allibhoy, Regional Chief Marketing Officer at Tim Hortons, explains where and how the Saudi youth spend their time, from gaming to sports and Netflix.
How critical is it for brands to consider entertainment when targeting the Saudi youth today?
You’re talking to a very agile, tech-savvy audience of millennials and Gen Z, who have been watching the world of entertainment on their screens but not have had access to it in their own country. Then, all of a sudden, that same youth has the ability to access and experience entertainment right next door. For them, it’s a fantastic time. And for brands, it’s a fantastic time too. The minute you have the ability to provide an integrated experience that they can actually see and feel up close and personal, then you have a true opportunity to engage, acquire, and potentially convert – which we never had before.
On which platforms does a brand need to be present to connect with them?
Gaming is probably the number one platform in KSA today. It’s so massive on so many different levels that even the government is taking it into consideration. But, often, brands think gaming is part of their marketing outreach because they sponsor FIFA tournaments. That’s not enough. It’s important for brands to take gaming seriously and to understand that, within gaming, you have three screens – console, PC, and mobile – and each screen grabs a certain persona and a certain audience. Gaming has become so segmented and so specific that you need to cover all the screens and all the personas if you want to reach a wider audience.
How can a brand leverage sports marketing?
Sports marketing, football in particular, has been massive in the Kingdom, especially with big brands endorsing global celebrities. The game changer has been Ronaldo coming to Saudi Arabia. It caught Riyadh by storm – overnight, he quadrupled the followers of Al Nassr Club. And now, there are talks of others to follow. Riyadh Season 2022, for example, had Messi in their campaign. Stadiums are fuller than ever because women can now attend matches and play for the first time – the Women’s Football League was launched a year and a half ago.
So, the potential is huge; but you need to go beyond the game itself and amplify it in many ways, looking at more integrated formats bridging a physical club and a video game, for example.
What role can music platforms and events play?
Music is going to continue to thrive with a massive audience who loves DJs, raves, live music, dancing, and being part of this tribe. That will only get bigger and better, especially since the Saudi government is using tourism to leverage them, selecting iconic locations like Al Ula.
And music streaming is massive, with brands using Anghami, in particular, left, right, and center. The fact that local artists are emerging also means that now, you have localized relevant content as well.
Lastly, how should brands look at social media?
As a result of the pandemic, TikTok and Snap have become huge, and that’s something that we’re investing a lot of time and effort in - not just the platforms themselves but also the influencers. Instagram and YouTube still have their place, but the numbers that we’re seeing on TikTok are just ridiculous. TikTok is going to create a lot of issues for the other platforms.
What other trends in entertainment do you see building momentum with the Saudi youth?
Big events in Dubai such as GITEX, which you wouldn’t typically link with millennials and Gen Z, are already transpiring in Saudi and they’re talking to a younger audience. LEAP, a big tech event in Riyadh, attracted 150,000 people, 50% of whom were youth because they want to know what’s going on in the tech field and the startup arena. That’s something fairly new to keep an eye on.
This article was first published in Communicate's Q1 2023 print issue.