From Aug. 22-23, the top North American League of Legends eSports teams will battle at Madison Square Garden for a chance to go to Europe and compete for the world championship in Berlin. And Coca-Cola will be right there with them, as one of the big brand sponsors for the event.
Coca-Cola’s eSports partnership with Riot Games has paid off quite well for the soft drink maker in just a short time. According to internal Coke research, after one year of the partnership, Coca-Cola was the #1 non-video game brand associated with League of Legends, the most popular eSports game in the world with over 85 million players worldwide. Most importantly, this research showed that 70% of gamers believe this brand sponsorship is positive, and 97% of gamers have either a positive or neutral response.
“We have a solid brand presence in the sport,” says Matt Wolf, head of global gaming at Coca-Cola. “We’re the most top of mind non-endemic brand in gaming after only a few years in the space.”
While Coke (KO) is still relatively new to the burgeoning eSports market—which research firm Newzoo estimates has over 88 million active fans and an additional 117 million casual fans watching events and competitions—it’s a well-established sports brand.
“Our brand historically sits in conjunction with great sports IPs,” Wolf says. “As we continue to celebrate fandom around eSports, it’s not unlike the approach we’ve taken with the Olympics or FIFA. It’s about that shared experience. Taking a sports marketing approach to eSports is really logical because eSports is a sport. It helps to elevate the sport and bring value to the overall experience. We’re proud of our presence in eSports.”
That presence continues to expand around the League of Legends North American Finals. The event will be broadcast live at Cinemark movie theaters at 30 locations in North America and 30 locations in Europe. Last year’s event was held in just three locations in North America and three locations in Europe.
“We’re still learning and growing with this program,” Wolf says. “By the time we get to Worlds [this fall] we’ll scale again. Movie theaters are a great way to celebrate fandom and promote togetherness.”
As tech savvy as eSports fans and gamers are, Wolf says Coke’s most popular marketing effort is extremely old-fashioned. At live events and cinema events, Coke has branded eSports cardboard poster boards that are white on the back. Fans can write messages with bold markers and hold them up in the audience or in the theaters to cheer on their favorite teams and players.
“It’s a way for them to express their fandom to pros or to Rioters and hold them up at the cinemas or live events, and they take selfies with them,” Wolf says. “The amount of people that go through and customize these cheer boards is staggering. It’s a very analog approach in a digital world, but it’s tactile and people love it.”
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