6 Brand Activations in Esports

A breakdown of good and bad brand activations.

As we head into 2020, I wanted to share with you a few simple sponsorship evaluations in the esports and gaming space.

There are really straight forward and “blah” ways to engage the esports demographic, and there are also some really creative/clever ways that make lasting impressions.

Here are 6 esports activations from different brands. Hopefully, you can apply some of this knowledge to your 2020 campaigns.

Faze Cizzorz X GFUEL

Faze and GFUEL are perhaps the best available case study for two brands that have grown old with each other in esports. They have been partnered for as long as I can remember and both brands have grown tremendously.

This video activation is amazing. It's entertaining in its own right and is not "salesy" in the least. The scripting is fantastic and even the acting is pretty darn funny. The post-production quality is excellent as well.

Final Grade: A+

100 Thieves x Rocket Mortgage

I've long thought that financial services are one of the verticals that stands the most to gain from targeting the esports demographic. For example, I opened my first bank account at BoA when I was 16...and guess where ALL of my accounts are now? That's right, Chase. Just kidding.

Given the age of this demographic, SO MANY of them will be close to opening their first bank account, credit card, or... starting to look for their first home. Given the lifetime customer value of these types of accounts, the actual marketing spends should be a no brainer.

Most of the activation I have seen for RM with 100T has been logo placement at the 100 Thieves Gaming House. That's fine if it's satisfying the underlying objective, but I'd like to see a bit more custom content around helping the audience understand what goes into actually purchasing a home.

The fit of the partnership gets high marks but I'd like to see a bit more on the creative side.

Final Grade: B

Starbucks Nitro X Madden Championship Series

Redbull, Monster, and GFUEL are dominating the drink category in esports. There is a large segment of the population that doesn't care for energy drinks. It makes sense for coffee brands (and specifically cold brew) brands to get involved.

The issue here is that it's just logo spam. There are quite a few studies out there that show that just doing "presented by" is not particularly effective in terms of connecting the brand to the audience.

Good fit but lazy execution.

Final Grade: C+

Cloud9 x ATT

There is no doubt that esports sponsorships make a ton of sense for communication companies. Whether it's attracting cell phone or internet/TV customers, any incremental addition to brand loyalty is key. The primary activation here is the high-quality production of "The Nines", a recurring esports talk show that is similar to what you'd see on regular television.  However, that is not what I'll be evaluating here. I'd like to talk about an activation they did at EVO 2019. EVO is the world's largest fighting game tournament.

At the event, a group of "Men in Black" escorted a large alien around the venue. There was no ATT branding. If you saw them, you would have NO IDEA what it was about. I happened to go up to them to see what the deal was and all I received was a poker chip. On that poker chip was an invitation to an after-party presented by Cloud9 and ATT.... WOW.

I was not able to attend the party, but that experience alone has stuck with me. This was so creative, not scaleable, and left a long-lasting impression. It's nice to see brands choosing depth over width.

Final Grade: A+

Rocket League x Mobil 1

Mobil 1 is seen in almost every motorsport. They need consumers to buy their products and there probably isn't a more direct audience to capture than those already watching motorsport.

How can a massive motor oil brand effectively enter the esports market? They could have sponsored any esport and just thrown the logo up. But they didn't..they chose an esport that features cars playing soccer. This is perfect.

The fact of the matter is that esports fans drive cars too and while they may not select their motor oil as frequently as someone who is a motorsport fan does, there is no doubt that Rocket League enthusiasts, when given the option, will go with the brand that supports their favorite esport.

I'm not sure who sold Mobil 1 on this, but I give a TON OF CREDIT to whomever ultimately signed off on this activation. It probably took some guts to go outside of their comfort zone and be one of the first major nonendemic brands to really go in. It actually makes me laugh thinking about the decision-makers sitting around a conference table in Houston and having someone pitch esports.

Mobil 1 will reap the reward for this bold move for many years to come.

Final Grade: A

Kill Cliff, Inc. x Z1ronic

Kill Cliff is an up and coming drink in the wildy competitive energy drink sector. In a world where Redbull has one of the largest marketing spends, it's not easy breaking through.

I think we can mostly agree that the difference in taste from one energy drink to the next is negligible and that for a ton of people, whichever can looks the coolest will get chosen off the shelf (assuming no brand bias, but obviously there is a ton of bias towards Redbull and Monster).

Ok, so what to do? The answer is to align yourself with a particular niche. KC penetrated the crossfit community well which is already known for it's "tribal" nature. They've recently entered gaming and partnered with a streamer who is a PERFECT FIT for their brand ethos (military, tough, no nonsense...essentially "NOT WEAK"). Z1ronic is a mostly TACTICAL FPS streamer who sports a long beard, tattoos, and a general "no BS" attitude. He rubs people the wrong way on occasion with his straightforwardness but thats the point.

It's a perfect fit and the only thing holding this partnership back from a higher grade is the execution of quality creative (which could be coming but I have not seen it yet).

Final Grade: A-