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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.