It’s no secret anymore—eSports has reached a level of legitimacy. Brands are rapidly seeking out any opportunity to sink their toes into the shiny eSports sand.
At this point, though, it’s not enough to slap your name on a team or a tournament. Fans want to feel connected. More importantly, they want to be engaged.
We are talking about the most desired and hardest to reach consumer segment…on a global scale. Brands and the most sophisticated advertisers are looking for the digital engagement platform to connect with these tech-forward consumers.
How do brands win? Community
Gamers seek authenticity from a brand. Brands win by ingraining themselves in the fiber of the community and speaking the native tongue.
Some brands are taking that extra step towards forging deeper connections to the eSports community, while others are falling short. See who’s trending in which direction right here.
Red Bull got started early in the eSports space and is now one of the authentic early adopter brands that consumers respect as “early in.”
Red Bull found their niche in the popular Street Fighter V game, where they host monthly tournaments called the Proving Grounds where players of all levels can compete for a chance to play in the national tournament, the Battle Grounds.
Beyond sponsoring their own competition as well as eSports franchise, Team SoloMid, Red Bull needed something that could establish an even stronger connection with their fans.
They came up with a video series called Cultivation. This mini-series chronicles top-level gamers who push themselves past their limits in order to succeed. It’s something gamers of all ages can connect with and provides extra inspiration for those on the cusp of taking the next step.
GEICO has built their reputation in the gaming space through a unique and clear sponsorship activation strategy. They seek to be the brand for all gamers, not just the elite.
To bring the brand into the gaming space authentically, GEICO engaged an organization built by gamers for gamers: ONOG (One Nation of Gamers).
The ONOG Hearthstone Circuit, hosted by GEICO, quickly became the go-to opportunity for amateur gamers to compete in open tournaments for the chance to face off against pros and build their own reputations. This tournament has helped launch the careers of several amateur players who seized the opportunity to battle the best. It also didn’t hurt to have thousands of their peers watching them live via Twitch TV.
But again, it’s not just the sponsorship that makes the investment worthwhile—it’s how you activate it. GEICO, like Red Bull, sponsors Team SoloMid and recently tapped some of the team’s players to star in a mini-series of their own.
The series features a house full of TSM teammates and their nosy neighbor, Russell. The mockumentary, shot like The Office, makes the players more relatable to the gaming audience through their comedic adventures and subsequent confessionals.
To further humanize Team SoloMid and their brand, GEICO created mini-commercials featuring individual players and Russell. Content is all about speaking the language of your audience, and GEICO has certainly accomplished that in the gaming community.
No brand is more internationally revered than Coca-Cola, and that recognition has helped cement them into the gaming scene. They began in the space by connecting themselves with über-popular game League of Legends and the World Championship tournament.
With that partnership, Coke was able to take the live stream of the championship to Cinemark Theaters for a unique extension of the tournament. Beyond that though, Coke hasn’t invested a whole lot into their content development.
They have a huge social media following and do a great job of speaking their audience’s language. They frequently Tweet out memes and funny comics while also providing real gaming updates. While their social media game is on point, they haven’t done anything recently to really separately themselves from the crowd.
Comcast made waves recently with their initial foray into the eSports field. They forged sponsorships with both ESL (eSports League) and gaming franchise, Evil Geniuses.
Despite their partnerships with two eSports giants, consumers don’t feel the authenticity of the partnerships. Some go so far as to say it feels like they’re slapping their name on something without regard to relevance.
If there’s one thing the gaming community won’t stand for, it’s those who are trying too hard to fit in. They’ll need to do something soon to better connect with their audience or they won’t hear the end of it.
Now is the time where brands are beginning to go all in on eSports. It’s ripe for the picking, but the competition is rapidly growing. If brands can’t find their niche and learn to speak the native gaming tongue, they will quickly find themselves on the outside looking in.