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Put your (virtual) hand up if you have only recently heard of Twitch? Now you can’t stop hearing or reading about the Amazon owned platform.
The number of people gaming and streaming has grown quickly in recent months, as previously discussed in our article on the “impact of COVID-19 on esports”, leading to an increased focus on esports. The number of people streaming and engaging with Twitch has risen sharply, whilst Twitter chat about esports has risen by 71% in the second half of March compared to the first two weeks. See the banner graphic at the top of this blog!
This increased engagement with esports has been of particular interest for non-endemic brands. They recognise the potential to reach a wider audience but there still remain question marks about how to do it, in a genuine way. Authenticity is a word banded around a lot in respect of describing how brands must ensure their activations are authentic. Why?
The esports industry is unique. Gamers are digitally savvy. They have ad-blockers, choose the content they want, when and where, and are regarded as being loyal…if they like something. If they don’t…caveat emptor!!!!
Any non-endemic brand looking to enter the space needs to ensure their activations or partnerships have an authentic voice. For example, Chipotle regarded as the fastest growing restaurant chain in the US has a significant presence in esports in the United States, having spent a number of years building its brand including:
Chipotle’s partnership with DreamHack included the launch of the Chipotle Challenger Series (CCS) – an on-site amateur tournament that gave attending fans the opportunity to prove their skills in some of the world’s most popular games.
However, like traditional sports, esports in the UK and the USA are very different from each other, and Chipotle realised it would not be possible to automatically replicate its success across the pond. Consequently, Chipotle opted to test the waters of the UK esports industry by partnering with LDN UTD to ensure its early activations were authentic and had the right tone, initially by providing a 2-4-1 voucher to registrants of LDN UTD’s try-outs.
There are a number of different partnership opportunities for non-endemic brands to enter the esports industry, some of which are considered below.
One of the most recent high profile partnership activations has come in the form of BMW’s global partnership with five top esports organisations: Cloud9, Fnatic, FunPlus Phoenix, G2 Esports, and T1 Entertainment & Sports. This is great news for the esports sector. The partnership will see:
Organisations often have a range of teams competing in a variety of games and so offer an opportunity for non-endemic brands to reach an extremely wide audience through one partnership. However, this new and unique sponsorship model will see BMW’s brand promoted through the organisations’ ability to create content and engage with one another on social platforms.
If the activation is a success, it could set a new precedent for how sponsors engage with esports organisations in the future and potentially lead to increased sponsorship in the industry. Who will be next?
Tournament or League
Although Covid-19 has led to many esports tournaments moving online, it has also highlighted that esports can continue to offer original brand activations. A great example was Chipotle’s decision to move the 2020 CCS completely online. The 2020 CCS will feature online Qualifying and Finale competitions throughout the year, as well as the opportunity to go head-to-head against fan favourites in esports, as well as Chipotle-fan gamers in sports, music and entertainment like professional basketball players Marcus Smart, Josh Hart, DeMarcus Cousins, Meyers Leonard, and award winning DJ Steve Aoki, amongst others. This is awesome! Note: we are not just saying this because of a previous working relationship with Chipotle.
The Chipotle Challenger Series is an exemplary and unique way of how a brand can activate in a smart and creative way. One of the major differences between traditional sports and esports is the barriers to entry; a wider range of people play esports because the barriers to entry are lower. By offering gamers the chance to compete at an event or against professional esports players or celebrities, Chipotle have successfully engaged with the gaming community and provided fans with an experience they will never forget.
There are other tournament sponsorship opportunities available in esports for brands, including those that are restricted from engaging with younger gamers, as evidenced by Bud Light’s partnership with the Overwatch League.
Bud Light has to manage restrictions on advertising to audiences under the legal drinking age and therefore has to come up with alternative ways of advertising. Consequently when it partnered with the Overwatch League, it was agreed that Bud Light would create its own branded match commentary show on its Twitch channel using Overwatch League broadcasters. Bud Light’s partnership with the Overwatch League was a success because the content was on point. By using Overwatch broadcasters, Bud Light demonstrated that it understood its core audience and offered them a unique experience which they wouldn’t otherwise have received.
It seems logical to predict that, as the esports sector grows and matures, betting products in and around esports will enjoy a similar trajectory. This will likely come in the form of deeper partnerships between gambling and esports industry stakeholders, as evidenced by the fact that many esports organisations already have dedicated betting sponsors. Furthermore, new partnerships are regularly forming; an example of this was ICE London 2020 and GG.BET combining to invite eight of the world’s top Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) teams for a closed tournament at the gaming and gambling conference. The tournament provided an alternate but organic platform for organisations to showcase their talent to a new audience. Betting is still a contentious sector for certain esports organisation to engage with, given their demographic. LDN UTD is one such org where much of the engaged audience is under 18.
Chipotle (yes again!), BMW and Bud Light serve as great examples of how non-endemic brands can however reach a new audience in uncertain times. With tournaments and events remaining online for the foreseeable future due to coronavirus restrictions, it is possible that other non-endemic brands could seek to replicate their activations, and partner with tournament organisers to create their own content as part of a broader long term engagement plan with esports.
The success of a non-endemic brand’s activation is based on:
If you are a brand and you are interested in entering the esports space but don’t know where to start, feel free to speak to the team at LDN UTD. While the esports industry has suffered as result of Covid-19, there are a number of unique opportunities that teams, publishers, tournaments and fans look ready to take advantage of, which could take the industry to the next level and you could be a part of. We are happy to part impartial advice.
As for our next article, we’ll be looking at whether esports players really are athletes in the true sense!