Coca-Cola has partnered with Twitch to host its first-ever, but likely first of many, eSports charity event. On December 15 at the Atlanta Coke headquarters, Twitch will livestream a variety show, called Game-a-Thon 1.0, featuring YouTube and eSports celebrities like Joedat “Voyboy” Esfahani, Jon Carnage, Twitch programming director, Rachel “Seltzer” Quirico, Justin Flynn and Joseph “Swiftor” Alminawi to raise money for several charities. It’s the latest marketing initiative from the soft drink maker that aims at unifying the eSports community.
Matt Wolf, head of global gaming at Coca-Cola, has worked closely with Riot Games to integrate Coke Zero into the League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) over the past year. Now that the Challenger Series had a successful first season as a minor league for aspiring League pro gamers, Wolf hopes to build on the company’s @CokeEsports Twitter success by working with Twitch. He talks about the opportunities in eSports, and explains the similarities between the LCS Championship in Korea and the World Cup in this exclusive interview.
What was it like experiencing the LCS Championship in Seoul, Korea this year?
I’d never seen anything like it and I’ve been in gaming for over two decades. It was amazing to see the power of the broadcast and the size of the attendance — two things we really didn’t have five years ago at this scale. There were over 35,000 people in the World Cup stadium and the broadcast reached 10s of millions of people. The concurrent views were off the chart and the excitement was palpable. Korea is the birth of eSports, but people came in from all over the world to attend. It felt historical with the sold out stadium and Imagine Dragons opening up the event. It was really special.
How did Coke take part in this event?
We activated there similarly to the FIFA World Cup experience, except we did it around League of Legends. We got great results through social media on the League Twitter account. We gave away collectible Coca Cola character cups and people showed up at 5 a.m. and waited in a one kilometer long line to go through the booth experience. We had custom Share a Coke bottles and other prizing activations. Fans got to take pictures with some of the characters form the game, they got the cup and all this other stuff. For Riot it’s just a big win. It shows the power of League and of eSports in all these different facets.
How have you used Twitter to connect with eSports fans?
Our Twitter (@CokeESports) account grew 13,000 percent in 2014. We went from zero to over 203,000 over a year. We’re looking at Twitter as a great tool to have an always-on platform with fans and consumers. It’s more about doing iterative marketing, and we’ll continue to grow it and speak to other gaming activations in the future.
“Our Twitter account grew 13,000 percent in 2014. We went from zero to over 203,000 over a year. We’re looking at Twitter as a great tool to have an always-on platform with fans and consumers.”
How have you seen non-gaming executives come around to eSports as a viable marketing opportunity for Coke?
The conversations have always been pretty thought-provoking and warmly received at Coke because they had enough vision to seek out a guy like me. They gave me the freedom to apply my vision to CP (consumer packaged goods) and they really supported it. There were moments where it might have been challenging to explain eSports — even people from gaming sometimes have a hard time wrapping their head around Millennials watching others play games for hours a day. Coke trusted me that this is the right direction. There were some, moments where I had to wave my hands a lot before the LCS events at Staples Center last year and in Korea this year. Other eSports games have done powerful numbers, as well. Now Coke looks at this as a viable MarCom strategy.
“There were moments where it might have been challenging to explain eSports — even people from gaming sometimes have a hard time wrapping their head around Millennials watching others play games for hours a day.”
How do you see eSports compare to real sports Coke activation?
Experience is key on that. Coke celebrated the FIFA World Cup with a trophy tour to the four corners of the planet. We’ve taken some of that shorthand as a company and applied that toward an eSports play. You saw a lot of parallel in Korea. The FIFA World Cup showed up in Seoul, Korea at the same stadium LCS was at. The World Cup is one of the big activation plays for Coke. And we did something similar with League with an experiential destination that we dressed authentically with League and Coke Zero. We gave people a chance to interact with the moment. We played the ally to the League protagonists. The heroes are the characters and the game and the players, and we support that just like we support the World Cup athletes. If we go back to May at the League All-Star Game in Paris, it was a similar kind of thing. It’s a new way to experience League of Legends through fans and pros complete with cheer boards. It’s been an evolution this year, but it parallels how we do things like FIFA World Cup.
How are you partnering with Twitch for charity?
Matt Wolf, Head of Global Gaming at Coca-Cola
We’ve been talking to Twitch for awhile on how to work together in an authentic way to bring value back to community. I’ve been talking to Kevin Lin (co-founder and COO of Twitch) about this for awhile and we decided to come together around the idea of playing for charity. We decided to work on a live production from our Atlanta headquarters with a set and fly talent out and shoot a show where four contestants (popular Twitch blasters) and Voyboy, an ex League pro, would compete for charity. Next Monday starting at 3 p.m., we’ll have four players hosted by popular eSports caster Seltzer and it’ll be a great day of play for charity. Coke and Twitch can talk about what they have going on in each camp. We explore other parts of our company. We’ll have surprise interviews and slide shows around a gaming for good variety show. It’s a fun way for gaming and brands to come together.
What charities are involved?
We’ll have a mix of four charities. We’re putting the finishing touches on things now.
How are you using Twitter for this charity event?
We’ve used our account to let people know about this program. We ran a teaser campaign and revealed a new contestant each day through Tweets last week. Now we’ll continue that discussion and move it over to Twitch.
Will Coke launch a Twitch channel?
We’re interested in growing our relationship with Twitch over time. They’re a powerhouse and it’s a great opportunity for us to partner with Twitch and from that grow a communications platform that we can add to what we’ve started with Twitter. We hope to have a dedicated channel, but we’re working out some moving parts. I’d like to have our own channel on Twitch, but the challenge that goes with that is having content over time. They become hungry babies. When you hatch a chickling like that, it’s sweet, but you have to provide content like we do with Twitter. It needs to be fresh and authentic. We have to be careful about that because we want to grow these things into something special and something big. Twitter has done well because we’ve focused on just that over the past year.