So you want to get your brand involved in esports? The good news is that there are plenty of opportunities in the fast-rising sport. But be careful, because if you stumble, the savvy gaming community might not let you forget about it. Here are some tips from brands that are already in the game.
Feed the Passion
Coke's approach has been to tap fan passion. That includes some old-school techniques, like handing out "cheer boards" at events that allow fans to scribble sayings on them. For people who can't make it to the big events, Coke hosts viewing parties at cinemas, like its high-definition satellite stream of the League of Legends World Championship at L.A.'s Staples Center last October to more than 200 movie screens across the U.S.
Be Willing to Take Some Hits
Gamers tend to be skeptical of outsiders, especially big brands. Marketers need to be resilient. Bud Light got involved last May by creating a group of "Bud Light All-Stars" comprising esports competitors. The final selections were chosen by fans from a group of players nominated by the brand. But just a few weeks later, Dotesports.com, which provides daily coverage of the industry, criticized Bud Light's slate of All-Star nominees, saying the players were not good enough: "It's a brand ambassador search poorly disguised as a campaign to find the best of the best." But Bud Light pressed forward and is happy enough with the results that it plans to continue the program in 2017. Once the brew started creating content featuring the All Stars, "a lot of that cynicism really disappeared," said Jesse Wofford, who runs the brand's esports platform.
Speak the Language
Arby's got involved with a bang—literally. To support its sponsorship last year of the ELeague, the company created videos showing its sandwiches being blown up along with references to the esports game "Counter-Strike: Global Offensive." The spots were shown during ELeague broadcasts on Twitch and on TV on TBS. "People appreciated that we got the game and created stuff with the game in mind," rather than treating it as a straight media buy, said Jeff Baker, the fast feeder's VP-brand advertising and content. At the ELeague final at Atlanta's Fox Theater, fans actually chanted "Arby's," according to multiple accounts given to Ad Age, including from Mr. Baker.
Give Up Control
PepsiCo's Brisk brand last year teamed up with popular esports franchise Optic Gaming to plug its Mate line of energizing tea with a weekly content series produced by Optic called "Smooth Competition." But Brisk did not hover over the process, leaving the content in the hands of the esports stars who know their audience best. "Brisk gave us a ton of freedom," said Optic CEO Hector Rodriguez. The result was 46 pieces of custom video content that accumulated more than 7.6 million views, according to PepsiCo.