Spelling Bee is a popular word game in the The New York Times’ suite of games where players are challenged with creating as many words as possible from a grid of 7 letters arranged in a honeycomb shape. In Fall 2022, The New York Times Games sought to drive Spelling Bee trials and earned coverage through a first-of-its kind campaign that invited commuters to play the daily Spelling Bee during peak ridership on the New York City subway.
The Spelling Bee Forum, where players discuss the daily puzzle, share gameplay tips and list solution hints with each other, has become the most visited page of The New York Times every single day. We wanted to help new players discover this passionate community and love of the game by driving trial of Spelling Bee to bring new players into the game and expand the hive.
In Fall 2022, New Yorkers were finally starting to get back to their usually scheduled routines after the Covid shutdown. As the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's ridership increased with students returning to school and adults returning to the office, we saw an opportunity to capture commuter attention and spark delight with our games all while building new gaming rituals into their daily rides.
We executed a digital subway buy with digital OOH strategically placed in major NYC transit hubs. The creative invited subway riders to play Spelling Bee together by utilizing in-station digital live boards to drive commuter awareness for the game, with a unique link driving to the daily Spelling Bee Puzzle. In-car digital live cards on major subway lines changed every day to show the current daily puzzle and encourage play while digital units lining the ceiling of the car displayed tips and hints from the Forum about how to solve the puzzle. Players were also encouraged to post their ‘Queen Bee’ or ‘Genius’ Spelling Bee high score status to social media where every qualifying post shared with #beetime would benefit the First Book charity, a non-profit that provides new books, learning materials, and other essentials to children in need.
This was a first of its kind campaign where the creative was updated daily on the in-car live cards to reflect the on-site Spelling Bee puzzle of the day. To drive additional momentum and trial, we worked with Andy Cohen, a daily Spelling Bee player, who shared with his Instagram followers a post showing himself playing Spelling Bee on his commute, surrounded by the NYT Spelling Bee digital subway creative.
The influx of return to office and back to school commuters combined with a first of its kind daily game experience in subway cars created a buzz-worthy campaign and successfully drove game trial. 80% of those who accessed Spelling Bee through the QR code or vanity URL started playing the game. Coverage in publications like Us Weekly, and tags from influencers like Andy Cohen drove a significant increase in word of mouth and press.
Additionally, the reach of earned conversation increased by 6M impressions compared to the pre-campaign period as we saw increased press and word of mouth conversation. The New York Times Games’ follower count increased during the period the campaign was live noting the biggest increase in followers during the days after Andy Cohen’s post on Instagram.