Shell’s latest attempt to advertise to Gen Z is in vain

“Fortnite,” one of the most popular video games of its generation, has recently partnered with an oil giant to market gasoline to the game’s young demographic. 

The free multiplayer game where players can compete in a Battle Royale, go on quests or make private islands with the “Creative” feature, is one of the biggest games in the industry, retaining 230 million monthly active players, according to Demand Sage statistics. The game has over 500 million registered players and can be played on many platforms, making it easily accessible. “Fortnite” is targeted at a wide age range, starting at age 13, but more than 60% of its players are between the ages of 18 and 24-years-old. 

This makes it a prime target for advertisers looking to get their product into the hands of millions of young gamers. Not to mention, the reach the game has due to the many influencers who stream, record and post about the game on platforms like Twitch, YouTube and X. 

This is the situation that Shell, the oil giant, has taken advantage of by launching a campaign within “Fortnite” titled “Shell Ultimate Road Trips.” This effort is meant to promote Shell’s newest gasoline, extravagantly titled “Shell V-Power® NiTRO+ Premium Gasoline.” 

“Shell’s marketing to young people is another example of how big oil puts profit over people and the planet,” said Allison Fisher, the director of Media Matters for America’s climate and energy program. “Even though it has known for decades that the product that it sells is driving the climate crisis.” 

What makes this premium gasoline so special? It’s better for your car, but not for the environment. It destroys carbon deposits in the fuel injector and protects against corrosion, wear and friction. 

The campaign partnered with six influencers, who have built their platforms around the game on popular platforms like Twitch, to create an island explorable by 3D, in-game vehicles. Players can even engage with cartoony Shell stations to fill up their “Fortnite” cars with fake gasoline, meanwhile real gasoline is irreversibly damaging the ozone layer and allowing us to speedrun global warming. 

In addition to the new “Fortnite” map, the campaign launched a sweepstakes with players sharing their “coolest screenshots” to #ShellRoadTrips for a chance to be featured by their favorite gamer. There was also a chance to win “the ultimate road trip package,” an all-expenses paid road trip using the Shell V-Power® NiTRO+ Premium Gasoline — the product the campaign promoted — or eGift Cards. 

“Trade industry groups and energy companies have sought to use influencer marketing to humanize their products, even though the impacts of these products are driving climate change [and] jeopardizing the future of its target audience,” Media Matters analyst Ilana Berger said.

I understand there’s no way to stop the use of fossil fuels in one fell swoop, but there are better places for Shell to put their money than social media gaming campaigns.

The carbon footprint of the videogame industry is a larger issue that I do not have the space to elaborate on here. Though, I assure you, the video game industry wasn’t corrupted by Shell by any means, but Shell is trying to use its power and money in an attempt to build rapport among Generation Z.

If it isn’t obvious, I think this marketing ploy is absurd. Mainly because Shell’s targeting of a younger generation to get them on board with fossil fuels is in vain. Generation Z is more than aware of the effects of oil companies on the environment. 

“Gen Z knows the truth about the fossil fuel industry,” said Aru Shiney-Ajay, executive director of the environmental advocacy group Sunrise Movement. “Companies like Shell know it. This is just the latest attempt to buy their way to survival.”


Featured photo courtesy of Sergio Souza, Pexels