Commentary

Riot Games' Partnership With Louis Vuitton Shows The Future of Marketing In Gaming

Just this month, the League of Legends World Championship Quarter Final match broke the record for highest peak audience for an esports broadcast at 2.5 million viewers from around the world, beating Fortnite's record of 2.3 million.

That audience is almost entirely made up of young adults 18-34, and with Nielsen reporting that 50% of the average Twitch esports fans (the source of the majority of live gaming content) do not own a TV subscription, gaming channels like Twitch and games like "League of Legends" and "Fortnite" become essential marketing tools for advertisers to reach their target audiences.

About a month ago, many were shocked to see Riot Games, creators of "League of Legends," announce a partnership with luxury brand Louis Vuitton.

The original announcement described plans for Louis Vuitton to build a one-of-a-kind travel case for the "League of Legends" championship trophy. While many, including myself, reflected that it is pretty crazy to see Louis Vuitton get involved with gaming, the idea of a trophy case designed by LV was not so far-reaching.

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However, in this same announcement, Riot mentioned that Louis Vuitton's women's designer Nicolas Ghesquiere would also be designing a number of "League of Legends" digital assets, including customizables for in-game use.

For those who are unaware, "League of Legends" is a free-to-play game. There is absolutely nothing in the game that you can purchase to make you better at the game or increase your chances of winning.

What you can buy, just like in "Fortnite" and other mainstream free-to-play titles, are loads of appearance-altering customizables for your characters.

For example, in "League of Legends" there is a playable character (which are referred to as Champions) by the name of Darius (one of my personal favorites). Darius looks like a medieval military commander, with a huge battle axe and dark, spiked armor. In the game, his abilities are all themed around decimating enemies with his axe, and his ultimate attack causes him to leap up high and slam down his axe onto a foe.

Affectionately, in-game, players referred to Darius’ ultimate ability as "slam dunking" on enemies. Soon, an idea was born. Darius was given a purchasable skin that turned him into Dunkmaster Darius, alternating his armor for basketball attire, exchanging his axe for a basketball post, and changing his voice lines to say things like "There's no 'i' in 'team,' but there is one in 'Darius." It was a huge hit.

Players, including myself, spent $20 to buy the look for Darius. This is just one example, as hundreds of skins exist for each different champion in the game.

Until now, all of the purchasable "skins" in "League of Legends" have had absolutely nothing to do with any brands (outside of "League of Legends" esports teams, for which Riot makes in game customizables). Unlike "Fortnite," which has brought in major partnerships with the NFL and more to give in-game avatars different looks, "League of Legends" has seemed to stay away from any non-endemic brands getting involved in-game.

But behold -- that all changes now. For the November 10th Championship match in Paris, "League of Legends" announced the first Louis Vuitton in-game skin for a Champion called Qiyana.

My guess is that Louis Vuitton is not directly making a boatload of money off of its partnership with "League of Legends," and Riot Games probably forked over a hefty sum to get Louis Vuitton involved with their game. Yet, Riot's engagement with Louis Vuitton, and visa versa, is a fantastic marketing tool to connect with younger audiences.

Already, Louis Vuitton is highly sought after by younger generations -- the luxury brand's place in popular culture has kids walking around in thousand-dollar pairs of shoes -- and the "League of Legends" audience has a global presence, only increasing reach for Louis Vuitton.

What this also does is allow people who really can't afford Louis Vuitton in their real lives to afford a customizable in-game that will make them feel connected to the brand.

Skins in "League of Legends" generally run for somewhere between $10 and $25, and are unlocked permanently for your account.

Ultimately, this is a signal to advertisers and marketers that gaming and esports can -- and should -- be incorporated into your marketing strategies.

If Louis Vuitton -- 2018's largest and most profitable luxury brand -- sees value in partnering with "League of Legends," there's got to be a there there.

2 comments about "Riot Games' Partnership With Louis Vuitton Shows The Future of Marketing In Gaming".
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  1. John Grono from GAP Research, November 7, 2019 at 5:48 p.m.

    2.5m viewers from around the world eh?

    Sounds impressive, eh?

    But aren't there 7.7b people around the world?   (Yes.)   So doesn't that mean that just 0.03% of people viewed (Yes).   And by that, viewing could have been for just a few seconds.   (Yes.)

    To put that into some (weird) perspective, for heaven's sake that is one-sixth the incidence of genital warts!   Why not write that up as an audience target.   (Please, No.)

  2. Zach Oscar from Simulmedia replied, November 7, 2019 at 6:08 p.m.

    Thanks John, really insightful.

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