Best Buy powers up for Pokemon Go

The retailer helped players get the most out of the game by sending staff to Pokemon-catching hotspots and providing free WiFi.

Last week, we took you through a few of the (somewhat limited) ways brands and marketers could tap into the smash-hit Pokemon Go craze. But it seems that Best Buy, which has positioned itself as a retail brand that helps Canadians get the most out of technology through its products and the advice of its staff, found a way to be relevant that hadn’t occurred to us.

Last Thursday, Best Buy staff were out in their signature blue shirts at popular “Pokestops” in Toronto and Vancouver, dropping “lures” – in-game items that attract Pokemon to a location – for players nearby to utilize. While Best Buy isn’t the first retailer to participate by using lures, it did use its position as a tech retailer to address two major pain points players have had with the smash-hit mobile game: how quickly it uses up both battery life and mobile data.

The retailer set up free WiFi hotspots for players to use, sent staff into the crowds with mobile chargers and gave away free portable battery packs, allowing them to play that much longer without having to find a place to charge.

Union led the events, with support from experiential agency XMC and PR handled by Veritas.

A quick explanation, for those still unfamiliar: Pokestops are locations in Pokemon Go where players can pick up in-game items, and are based on real-world locations, like public art, parks and landmarks. Certain high-traffic areas, like the Toronto Island Ferry Terminal or Robson Square in Vancouver, have a high number of both Pokestops and Pokemon nearby, and thus have become popular areas for players to spend their time.

Though many Canadians found ways to play the game ahead of time, the “PokeParty” events were held just days after the official Canadian launch. “Best Buy was ready to be a nimble partner, so we could really be in the right place at the right time to be a part of the community,” said Lance Martin, ECD at Union, in a press release.

Players at the event could also tweet using the hashtag #BestBuyPokéParty to win a Pokemon Go Plus, a soon-to-be-released fitness tracker associated with the game. Pokemon Go has a function where players can get Pokemon from eggs that hatch after they’ve travelled a certain distance.

However, the game doesn’t measure footsteps, instead using the GPS signal to estimate distance travelled, which can be inaccurate if the game is running in the background or your phone is left in sleep mode for too long.

The Pokemon Go Plus addresses that by tracking steps the same as a regular step counter would. Best Buy is one retailer that will be selling the wearable in Canada upon its release, though it has already sold out of its pre-order stock.