Posts by Adam Mohammed

Get in the (Actual) Game, Part 2 of 3

September 4th, 2018 Posted by Uncategorized 0 comments on “Get in the (Actual) Game, Part 2 of 3”

A guide to sponsoring esports as a smarter marketer.

If you’re all aboard this ongoing series train, you would’ve read the first entry by now. We covered an overview of esports genres, and the viewership of noteworthy brand sponsors based on them. Now we’ll get into what really makes brands thrive in the long run.

Authenticity.

That’s right, marketers. It’s what matters most. Whether you’re entering esports or sustaining your brand with a multi-year plan, you have to be a believable part of the community. Let’s take a look at how three key brands haven’t stopped at just being visible. These three have become synonymous with esports by playing the long game, by having their eyes set on growth through authentically being part of the community.

1) Red Bull
As one of the earliest adopters of esports, Red Bull started their connection with the community more than 12 years ago. They invested in events to provide stages for the big, emotional moments—the spectacle. They invested in teams to help legitimize the sport as a profession. They even went as far as including esports in their traditional sports training facility to ensure the community had what it needed to sustain itself.

The Red Bull High Performance eSports Lab in Santa Monica, matches gameplay data with player biometrics to give esports athletes deep insight into how they play. And how they can improve. Practice makes perfect. But data like biometrics, makes player performances easier to analyze as a type of athletics.

The brand has pursued a lab as well as bars, creating Red Bull Gaming Spheres in Tokyo and London. Each bar gives the community a high-end venue for smaller tournaments, meetups and hangouts. An offering like this gives the esports community in both cities a strong meeting place between pros and fans, so that both can thrive because of the other.

Red Bull continues to feel like a permanent part of the esports community by being engrained in esports—both from an athlete and community culture development perspective.

2) Coca-Cola

An internationally recognizable behemoth like Coca-Cola can’t ignore that esports is making noise on the world stage. The brand listens. It provides access to fans and athletes through a range of events and viewing parties, which now almost match their sponsorship of traditional sports.

Rightfully so. Coca-Cola’s global launch of a tournament for EA SPORTS™ FIFA 18 (the world’s most popular sports-based video game series) aligned with the FIFA World Cup this year. Coincidence? The free-to-enter tournament, named eCOPA Coca-Cola, travelled across Europe as an accessible celebration of traditional sports and esports—on an iconic international scale that Coke always operates on.

When this brand is involved in something, you know it’s for real. They strive for authenticity. They, for the lack of a statement without a pun, don’t play around.


3)
Sephora
Sponsoring the GIRLGAMER Esports Festival is a major step for a women’s beauty brand, emphasizing that esports audiences aren’t limited to one gender. Representing and, most of all, celebrating a rising demographic is the purest support for the esports community. This gesture by Sephora is a sign that brands have opportunities to prove their worth to audiences. If they watch and listen to them.

GIRLGAMER is an especially valuable venture by a brand because it’s a conference. It includes industry speakers, marketing analysis, and investment opportunities in addition to esports competitions. The partnership between Sephora and GIRLGAMER hosts much needed dialogue on a marketing level and focuses on motivating a growing group of female players and fans in esports. It’s a prime space to be in considering the outcome of the investment is based on growth.

The popular saying definitely applies: “You get what you put in”.

Summary
We’ve looked at authenticity in this entry for good reason. The three key cases go past the overview we started with in our first entry to this guide. Last time, we covered viewership and the visibility of brand sponsors, on a surface level, so that we could then really look inside this time. Because inside the esports community are where long-lasting opportunities live.

Esports is an industry to marketers, but a community to players and fans. It doesn’t need to be one perspective vs. the other. The more that brands look at sponsorship as a way of supporting, helping, building, sustaining, caring for—whatever you choose to call it—the more that brands will benefit from authentically being part of the esports community. In the long game.

Hey, you get what you put in.

 

Check out the first article in this series here.

Get in the (Actual) Game, Part 1 of 3

July 5th, 2018 Posted by Uncategorized 0 comments on “Get in the (Actual) Game, Part 1 of 3”

An ongoing guide to watching esports as a smarter marketer.

esport stadiumThis article can also be know as, A Frank Guide by a Guy Named Adam. 

Esports is a reality. A big reality. If a round of esports playoffs can yield nearly $17 million in sponsorship value, then it’s no wonder Newzoo forecasts that sponsorship spending will reach $655 million by 2020.

But before we really get into it, we’ll need to do some housekeeping. This isn’t Super Mario, Tetris or Candy Crush that we’re talking about. Esports is an organized competitive sport structure (like a league, for example) where game developers and grassroots fan communities build around popular games. They call it esports because it broadens the spectrum of sports to include those played electronically.

The term “esports” has been buzzing for longer than most marketers may think. Since the year 2000 to be exact. The Korean e-Sports Association, an arm of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism created it.

It became “E-sports” globally, then “eSports” to a lot of journalists and business reporters. But it’s actually “esports” now. Yes. Adding the hyphen or capital ‘S’, according to the Associated Press, is like writing “email” with a hyphen or capital ‘M’. Don’t do it. The world of esports has been accepted. Demystified.

To further demystify things, look at it this way: Physical activity is to traditional sports, what video gaming is to esports.

Traditional sports and esports are part of the same spectrum. The organized, competitive structure we build around something, makes it a sport. On a turf, screen or otherwise. The parallels between esports and traditional sports are clearer especially because one is modeled after the other, which brings us to why we’re here.

The focus of this issue of the guide, is on viewing experiences. To simplify how we talk about viewing esports, we’ll dive into the parallels that three popular esports—from three of the many varying genres—have with traditional sports. As we get deeper, we’ll uncover the aspects of esports that affect the visibility of sponsors and the popularity of games.

1) League of Legends (Genre? MOBA: Multiplayer Online Battle Area.)

League of LegendsWhen a player’s character representing the “tank” position on a team takes the top lane in League of Legends, it’s similar to a breakaway in hockey or soccer. They’re going in for the advantage. They just happen to do it by destroying the opposing team’s tower with a magical sword. Watching it happen is as exhilarating as watching an epic offensive sports moment because there are always defenders that aim to stop the momentum.

League of Legends plays are incredibly strategic. They have to be. In some cases, millions of dollars are on the line. The game itself requires the utmost coordination between teammates. There are dozens of characters and actions occurring on the screen at any given time.

When strategies are put into motion, the teams battle it out in matches that are comparable to the length of traditional soccer (football) matches. Sponsors’ brands have a lot of time to be visible during the broadcast or stream.

Because of the amount of strategy and coordination required by League of Legend players, some brands, like Gillette, have taken their sponsorship as far as sponsoring a talented team, not just a broadcast.

EDward Gaming

By sponsoring one of China’s top teams in 2017, EDward Gaming, Gillette aligned its brand with a team that is as committed to precision and performance as they are—who display it under competitive pressure no less.

It’s decisions like this that showcase how similar esports teams are to traditional sports teams and how the viewing experiences of both can be paralleled. League of Legends is by design a very strategic game, which rewards viewers with big moments and even bigger esports athletes, gaining the attention of international brands.

Popularity: 107,528 avg. viewers (on Twitch.tv)
Viewing complexity:
HEAVY
Similar to:
Soccer
Screen time for brands:
LONG

 

2) Overwatch (Genre? Team-Based FPS: First-Person Shooter.)

OverwatchThis year, the Overwatch League Grand Finals are at Barclays Centre in Brooklyn, New York, on July 27th and 28th. Watching Overwatch is a very special experience. It’s one of the newest esports leagues created. Modelled after sports leagues like the Major League of Baseball, the emphasis is on teams representing major cities.

These major cities aren’t exclusive to the US like the MLB is with one Toronto team. They’re international. Cities like London, Seoul, and Shanghai are represented in Overwatch League, generating a worldwide viewership culture for fans to get behind their city’s team.

Because of the fast-paced nature of Overwatch, brands have the opportunity to own replay segments. Sour Patch Kids, for example, owns the turning point/comeback segments in Overwatch League, repeatedly giving a nod to how the candy changes from sour to sweet—just like how the gaming moments they’re highlighting do.

SourPatch Kids esports sponsorship

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even though matches aren’t as long as League of Legends matches, Overwatch League is smartly structured with teams playing multiple sets, with multiple game modes—from escorting a payload through the opposing team’s defenses, to a king of the hill variation.

With traditional sports, the game mechanics only really change when in sudden death or shootouts because of a tie. In esports leagues like Overwatch League, things change for the sake of viewing a more entertaining set of games and to, seemingly, lengthen the viewing experience. This is all thanks to the Overwatch game being designed with multiple ways for teams to compete in the first place.

With more than one way to compete, and more than one way to win a set of games, Overwatch League is definitely a very interesting esport to watch. It’s nice to see a brand like Sour Patch Kids are present in a relevant way.

Popularity: 39, 583 avg. viewers (on Twitch.tv)

Viewing complexity: MEDIUM
Similar to:
Hockey or Basketball
Screen time for brands:
LONG

 

3) Street Fighter V (Genre? Fighting.)

Street Fighter VThis franchise is one of the oldest. It predates Overwatch and League of Legends because it originated in the days of arcades. Before PC gaming. Before online matches. Before the internet.

Unlike other esports, Street Fighter and others in the fighting game genre naturally distill the viewing experience down to which player’s character are visibly on the offense or defense. It’s as clear as night and day. Health bars show which character has the advantage based on how many attacks they have avoided. They also show which character is at a disadvantage because of how many attacks they’ve received without blocking.

It’s the esports equivalent of watching UFC. You see when one fighter is on their feet. You see when one gets knocked down.

In some respects, Street Fighter is easier to watch than UFC or boxing. You can’t see the stamina as an indicator when watching real life athletes throwing punches. You need to look at their bruises and read their body movement to predict what’s next.

Because matches only average about 3min, multiple sets are played in tournaments. The amount of sets played in one Street Fighter V tournament outweigh Overwatch League completely. That’s because the time it takes to watch a full Street Fighter V match with multiple sets and rounds is about equal to the time it takes to watch a single set of Overwatch League. Time matters. Brands have less time in SFV matches to be visible so they traditionally own visual real estate on the commentators’ desk.

Cup Noodles esport sponsorshipA Japanese brand like Cup Noodles doesn’t ever hold back, playfully utilizing visual real estate while commentators recap the events of specific matches or the current standing of a tournament bracket.

Even though Street Fighter V is an extremely accessible esport viewing experience, it may not be as drawn-out or varied as brands need it to be. The action is so fast, the matches are so short, that viewers don’t have time for anything other than the game content. What’s also important to note, is that viewers may only tune in to watch the finals instead of the entire tournament because of the viewing experience being so repetitive.

Popularity: 3,169 avg. viewers (on Twitch.tv)
Viewing complexity: LIGHT
Similar to: UFC
Screen time for brands:
SHORT

 

Summary
The world of esports is as varied as the world of traditional sports. This guide is just a small sample of what’s out there. It’s important to note that brands are more visible when the viewing experience is prolonged and/or varied through match types. It also makes for a more watchable experience anyway.

Watching League of Legends, as detailed in this guide, generally feels like a huge event because the strategic plays put into motion require so much effort from players giving viewers more of a reward. These slower, drawn-out matches with more viewers baited into watching due to anticipation provide bigger opportunities for brands to be present during a broadcast or to go as far as sponsor an entire skilled team for their values.

Watch. Learn. Assess. Your brand can actually get in the game, whichever it may be.

 

Check out the second article in this series here

TIFF: A close-up on brands that matter

September 16th, 2016 Posted by Brands, Thoughts 0 comments on “TIFF: A close-up on brands that matter”

Festival Street at the Toronto International Film Festival has been a hot spot for brand activations for several years. People love free stuff. Samples. Giveaways. Prizes. Surprise & delights. Yes. Yep. Sure. Mhmm & of course. They all work to associate positive feelings with brands. But do the brands even matter after people get what they want?