What are the best practices for integrating eSports and gaming into your marketing mix?

As the ecosystem has been structured, many advertisers have taken over gaming and eSports, driving up the price of the entry ticket. Here is the “cheatcode” of success!

Sponsoring or making references to video games in its advertisements, developing its own competitions or games is useless if these initiatives are opportunistic and short-lived. In this case, how to enter the game in the most efficient way possible?

Sponsorship to start

“Sponsorship is a good way to partner with more legitimate players than us in eSports, especially as teams are starting to adopt organizations inspired by traditional sport, explains Stéphane Tardivel, director of sponsorship, partnerships and events at Orange, which positions itself as an equipment supplier to Karmine Corp, providing the team with the connection allowing it to train and play in the best possible conditions. We made sure to be humble, and not to arrive with our big clogs by directly organizing a tournament in our name, for example. You have to know how to build your legitimacy over time, like what we have done in football where today we are the third brand most associated with this discipline, behind Adidas and Nike.”

Nicolas Borri, appointed Chief Revenue Officer of the French eSports team GameWard in May 2022, adopted this approach when he was still Head of Marketing at Kellogg’s France, to make his brands Pringles and Treasure of references to gamers : “Unlike Orange, we are not one of the traditional sponsors of sports competitions. We started out in gaming by influencing, via the sponsorship of Domingo’s PopCorn show, which is a reference with nearly an average of 50,000 viewers on each live Twitch, and by partnering with us over an entire quarter. Enough to ensure Domingo a certain stability and give it the means to achieve its ambitions, which has been well received by its community. In 2019, the Pringles brand was not at all associated with gaming. In 2020, we were the third brand in the aperitif segment with gamers, before becoming number 1 in 2021, ahead of brands like Lays which communicate a lot about gaming and have bigger budgets.

Partner with the right communities

To quickly gain visibility, Orange chose to carry out actions on League of Legends, one of the most followed games in the world, and more particularly to join forces with Team Vitality, then with Karmine Corp, “the team that has the most committed community in Europe in my opinion, including with regard to the partners since they know that they are the ones who allow the team to grow”, says Stéphane Tardivel. But associating with the best comes at a cost that not all new entrants can afford. “The interest of these universes for a marketing professional is to be able to balance his approach. Between a publisher like Riot, a team like Karmine Corp or an influencer like Kameto or Sardoche, there is a wide spectrum of possible actions and an ultimately very different audience depending on the game, or even depending on the streamers playing the same game. Everyone has their own community!”, explains Nicolas Borri. And if the latter has chosen to sponsor PopCorn, there are many possibilities in this area. “We partnered with the Solary streamer team. It wasn’t a big investment, and we didn’t make any paid, yet the reach and engagement rate were good and made us invest more, notably by becoming the exclusive advertiser of the Team’s eSports content”explained to us in the summer of 2021 Muhammad Al Nimer, sponsorship manager of KIA France.

Choosing between eSports and gaming

Faced with the rise in the entry ticket to eSport, a new entrant could choose to reach the general public by prioritizing gaming. But again, you have to have a long-term view. “We could have continued to sponsor game releases, but there are so many different games and platforms, with their own community… We decided to focus on eSports because it’s far from confidential and that we reach 15-24 year olds more effectively”, explains Stéphane Tardivel. An opinion shared by Nicolas Borri, who has exclusively positioned the Trésor corn flakes brand on eSport via the sponsorship of the European Masters and the French 2nd division on LoL: “Gaming affects everyone, but generates much less engagement than eSports. When we partner with Xbox, nearly every household has an interest in participating in our activations to win a console, but attendees come for the payoff and quickly forget about the brand. Whereas in eSports there is a greater fervor.”

And if a brand like Dacia manages to engage many players, including professionals, with its gaming operations (see box below), not all of them manage to go viral, unlike the eSports scene, such as the explains Stéphane Tardivel: “eSports is quite a precursor in this area, in the sense that from the outset, players are also influencers who share a lot on the networks. As Prime and Kameto say, the streamers behind Karmine Corp. : it’s not just sport, it’s also entertainment.” Another alternative: create a team of amateurs, in order to seize the codes of eSport while remaining general public. A strategy adopted by Aldi with its Continuity team, or by Adidas which, in partnership with Team Vitality, launched the Yellow Stripes team.

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Create engagement

A good way to get into gaming is to vsgain experience on platforms like “Fortnite, Roblox or Minecraftwhich allow many things thanks to their creative modes, without always having to agree with the game publisher”, advises Arnaud Robin, Head of Gaming at Swipe Back. But also to partner with an influencer to engage their community. This is in particular the bet of Crédit Agricole, which created circuits with ZeratoR on the racing game Trackmania to teach about road safety, or even Babybel, which unveiled a new map on Fortnite during a live presented by Doigby. For its part, Pringles wanted to innovate last year by creating its own character, Frank, within the game West of Dead, while inviting streamers to try it live on Twitch. Surprise, Frank, embodied by an actor, landed in the middle of the live to “surprise” the streamer, but especially his community. “It was a technical demonstration. The operation was well received, but we found this activation still too ‘top-down’. In 2022, we launched the Pringles Success operation, which pushes players to perform unexpected actions in many games, then post their achievement on the networks to be drawn at random and perhaps win an Xbox. We are working on the UGC and the participative aspect, which is more horizontal”, explains Nicolas Borri. Orange also creates commitment through its Rush eSport platform: “We offer more original and sincere content. When Kameto or Squeezie say that the Orange network is the best, which is their opinion, it has much more impact than if we did a traditional advertisement with one of them. ‘them”, explains Stéphane Tardivel.

Adopt the right references in your ads

To reach the general public with video game references, brands invested in eSports and gaming can also deploy their assets in VoL, on social networks or even on TV. Franck, the Pringles character, was thus present in the brand’s advertisements in 2021, while all Trésor advertisements were thought of as parodies of known games. But here again, you have to be careful to respect the players and use the right references, as explained by Mathieu Lacrouts, CEO of the Hurrah agency. group: “Brands are increasingly referring to gaming in their advertisements because, beyond the buzz around the metaverse, video games are so widespread that we no longer just address gamers, but indeed everyone!” An interesting ad will then incorporate references to these universes, while winking at fans, like the Zalando “Explore Mode on” ad, broadcast at the end of 2021, and which is quite respectfully inspired by Mario. . Conversely, Coca-Cola’s spot, “One Coke Away From Each Other”, inaugurating its new brand platform was moderately appreciated by esports fans, as it featured professional gamers competing in a competition on a fictional video game inspired by games that do not have competitive scenes… “You have to stay close to what the players experience, and not consider gaming and eSports as a whole.”

Dacia successfully takes over Rocket League

To celebrate the first anniversary of its Spring electric model and work on its consideration with young drivers, Dacia is betting on gaming and in particular engaged fans of the game Rocket League in April 2022, while being surprised to see the best eSports teams in the game compete in its challenge, a tournament where participants had to personalize their vehicle by giving it electric attributes. Something to please the fans who, in addition to this tournament, were able to compete on a “map” created for the occasion. Downloaded over 25,000 times, it has been featured in over 500 hours of livestreaming on Twitch. “Rocket League is interesting because it’s a game that borrows from different worlds and stands out from a simple driving game by its community, team approach. It’s far from realistic, but that’s what is fun! Also, the number of people watching the competitive scene is as important as the number of players in this case.”says Arnaud Robin, Head of Gaming at Swipe Back, the studio that developed the operation with the Weber Shandwick agency.

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What are the best practices for integrating eSports and gaming into your marketing mix?