The first season of Turner and WME/IMG’s Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) was a success across digital and broadcast platforms with over 897 million gross minutes of video consumption. While the bulk of viewership was online, the weekly Friday night television component brought in 3.4 million new viewers to TBS.
Arby’s signed on as the official quick service restaurant of ELeague. Founded in 1964, the franchised sandwich restaurant brand has more than 3,300 restaurants worldwide. The company is based in Atlanta, GA, which also happens to be the hometown of Turner.
Jeff Baker, vice president of brand experience at Arby’s, said all of Arby’s ELeague content and activation was developed in partnership with Turner and WME/IMG. “It would not have been possible otherwise,” Baker said.
Throughout its first season, ELeague generated more than 25 million live video streams on Twitch for live event coverage. Arby’s uses television advertising to connect with consumers on a daily basis, but ELeague opened the brand up to a global online audience.
Mary Ellen Barto, vice president of brand media at Arby’s, said that the television component was important, but it was just one piece of the broader distribution of the competition. “The fact that fans had the option to experience the competition in the way that was most desirable to them—television, Twitch, or in-person—was compelling to us,” Barto said.
Arby’s jumped into the eSports fray because both its team members and guests are fans of gaming and eSports, according to Baker.
“The ELeague partnership offered us a unique opportunity to be a part of building a program for eSports and CS:GO fans that would be truly integrated and engaging rather than a boiler plate ‘sponsored by’ program,” Baker said. “We’re very proud of how we were able to bring it to life. The fan response has been overwhelmingly appreciative of our authenticity and respect for the game, teams and players. We have absolutely loved reading the fan comments on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit etc.”
As an official marketing partner, Arby’s—along with Credit Karma and Buffalo Wild Wings—receive customized, contextual brand exposure spanning ELeague multi-screen coverage across TBS and digital platforms. Personalized brand campaigns include sponsor integration within the AdTrack feature, which facilitates uninterrupted game coverage; custom, contextual brand integrations and ad space within limited commercial time.
“Gaming is the heart of eSports and the fans don’t spend a lot of time with other formats, traditional or otherwise,” Baker said. “The challenge in connecting is the same in or outside of gaming: you have to be as much of a fan as they are and truly appreciate the experience.”
Although ELeague marks Arby’s first foray into eSports, the company has been doing its research.
“We certainly have explored and are exploring leagues, teams, players and more,” Barto said, addressing eSports sponsorship opportunities. “Of course there are differences—teams don’t have broadcast TV channels, but partnerships with leagues, teams and players are all viable for brands. It’s dependent on ideas and content that are valuable to the fans and a distribution platform that can reach them.”
Barto said Arby’s is currently evaluating its ROI on ELeague, as the first season recently wrapped up. But from the outset, the company was less concerned with a traditional ROI number and more concerned with a genuine engagement with the fans in a fan-to-fan way. When it comes to the second season of ELeague CS:GO, Baker said the approach will continue to be based around providing valuable content and experiences for fans.
Unlike Buffalo Wild Wings, which is already committed to the September Overwatch Open, Barto said a new game like Overwatch adds a broader fan base to ELeague and Arby’s is currently considering if their involvement would make sense. On the other hand, Baker said the overlap between the ELeague CS:GO demographic and Arby’s customer base is very strong. Currently, Arby’s is more focused on delivering video content around CS:GO eSports, but elements such as coupons and in-game skins are considerations for the future.
One thing’s for sure, Arby’s is sold on eSports. “The growth of livestreaming and eSports are as correlated as any content and distribution that I’m aware of,” Baker said.
ELeague Season 2 kicks off in October, opening the door for more eSports engagement with a young male audience that Arby’s and other brands are very interested in reaching.