Best Buy freebie: HTC smartphone with your Modern Warfare 3

The electronics big-box retailer is pushing its mobile arm hard this holiday season with a hefty bump in its marketing budget, allowing for more promotions.

Modern Warfare 3's popularity will figure into Best Buy's mobile strategy.

Are you a gamer looking for a smartphone? Best Buy may be the spot for you.

The electronics big-box retailer is giving away an HTC smartphone to anyone who buys Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, which comes out Tuesday. The smartphone options are the Evo 4G for Sprint Nextel, the Incredible 2 for Verizon Wireless, and the Inspire 4G for AT&T. The catch: you need to sign up for a two-year contract.

The promotion is part of a larger effort by Best Buy to raise consumer awareness about its mobile offerings as it looks to tap into the white-hot interest in smartphones and all things wireless. The company is stepping up its game by earmarking $25 million for marketing this holiday season, and more promotions are expected in the coming weeks.

"We want to get customers to realize there is a better way, and that better way is Best Buy," said Allister Jones, head of marketing for Best Buy Mobile.

The company five years ago set out on a strategy of building specific mobile stores, both as standalone satellite locations, as well as a mini store within their primary retail outlets. It trained employees who specifically staff the mobile department, who position themselves as independent consultants. They offer devices through all of the major carriers and many of the smaller prepaid ones without any preference. It has done away with mail-in rebates, and occasionally offers phones that undercut the carrier stores.

But despite making some inroads, Best Buy is better known for televisions and overpriced cables than its smartphone offerings. A vast majority of consumers--roughly 70 percent--still go to the carrier stores. That's something Best Buy is hoping to change.

Jones, however, acknowledges that the dilemma is few people are aware of Best Buy Mobile. The company is planning a heavy campaign on television, through social media, in print insert advertisements, and more promotions. The budget is as much as three times the amount spent for prior campaigns, he said.

The Modern Warfare 3 promotion also includes a free case and the Elite App, which offers more experience points to use on better weapons.

Best Buy is investing now in an attempt to win over consumers as smartphone adoption goes mainstream. The company is attempting to establish a position of authority for consumers looking for a new mobile device.

Best Buy Mobile did so with deals such as one struck with HTC last year for prominent positioning in the stores. It also has a strong relationship with Apple, being the first non-carrier or Apple store to offer the iPhone. At yesterday's HTC Rezound launch, Best Buy was on hand at the event alongside Verizon and HTC executives. The moves are all designed to get a foothold in the mobile-devices industry.

"Mobile is the hot category, not just here, but in consumers' minds," Jones said.