Purpose - Based on flow theory, the purpose of this paper is to explain why the use of mobile advergames can enhance players' brand perceptions and purchase intentions, as well as the factors that affect players' flow experience.Design/methodology/approach - Data from 212 participants who played a mobile advergame was analysed. Structural equation modelling with PLS was used to test the research model.Findings - The results reveal that challenge, interactivity, focused attention and telepresence significantly influence the flow experience while playing mobile advergames. Results also show that the greater the flow, the more positive the attitude towards the featured brand and the greater the purchase intention.Practical implications - The findings of this study are important for advertising practitioners and advergames developers as understanding the key game features that promote flow is crucial to designing engaging mobile advergames that persuade players most.Originality/value - This study contributes to the literature in two ways. First, it provides new insights into the effectiveness of mobile advergames, which is an under-researched area. Second, it offers a conceptual framework based on flow theory for understanding why the use of mobile advergames can enhance players' brand perceptions and purchase intentions.