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Volume 26 No. 230
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Non-Endemic Brands Measure Success Of Esports Sponsorships

Suzuki said AT&T is authentically in esports because of their broadband connections, the foundation of gaming
Photo: ROBERT BRUNI
Suzuki said AT&T is authentically in esports because of their broadband connections, the foundation of gaming
Photo: ROBERT BRUNI
Suzuki said AT&T is authentically in esports because of their broadband connections, the foundation of gaming
Photo: ROBERT BRUNI

Esports is attracting brands not usually associated with gamers and their competitions. These non-endemic companies are investing, cautiously in some cases, to create brand affinity with a different group of young people. “It’s a competitive marketplace ... investing where people are, where people’s passion points are,” said AT&T Assistant VP/Sponsorships & Experiential Marketing Shiz Suzuki on Day 1 of the Lagardere Sports esports Rising conference. “It’s a great opportunity to get into a space we are authentically in. We bring broadband connections, the foundation of any gaming activity. It made sense, but it was a different approach for us.” State Farm Advertising Dir Edward Gold added, “We weren’t sure the esports audience was the insurance buying group.” But he said the investment makes “total sense” because it reaches a much younger demographic than the major traditional sports. The company’s esports-related creative focuses on the games and helping people get better at playing them. “At some point that will change,” said Gold, “and we’ll talk about the benefits of State Farm.” Another fairly new sponsor, ExxonMobil, is also developing its esports strategy, and the company's Global Motorsports & Sponsorship Adviser Christian Flathman said, “We’ve seen purchase intent, but in terms of units sold, we can’t tie it back yet.” Intel is a longtime esports sponsor, and the company’s VP & GM of Esports & Gaming John Bonini said, “There’s always a leap of faith in the beginning. Rarely does it make sense in the beginning.” 

THE CMO MINDSET
: Now that these non-endemic big brands are jumping into esports, they are looking for leagues and teams to be more responsive in providing data. Gold said the biggest issue for him is “measurement, measurement, measurement.” Flathman added, “Connecting us with existing partners to tell the story, making it a better business play for us. The need for a CMO mindset to work with that understands the business side of things.”

APPROACH WITH CAUTION: The marketing execs said they are being extra cautious when it comes to sponsoring individual pro gamers. Bonini said, “The gamers, streamers and chats that go on are pretty toxic. When gamers come out of that and become a star you never know what’s going to come out of their mouths.” Still, Suzuki says you have to strike a balance to stay authentic: “You don’t want them to go the other direction and not be theirselves. We don’t sponsor as of yet teams or individuals, but we incorporate influencers in our story lines. We take great care in who we use, and we focus on diversity. We want them to be someone who’s authentic in the space but a proponent for good gaming behavior.”