Sponsors Talk About The Opportunities ESports Open Up For Brands

ESports continues to grow its global audience, which according to Newzoo, now accounts for 256 million gamers. With those consumers engaging with eSports on a regular basis, including interacting with professional gamers during practice, there are many opportunities for brands to connect with this audience. While television networks like ESPN and TBS are opening up more traditional marketing opportunities, the digital and mobile nature of eSports also provides something unique.

Some of the top executives in eSports today, including Oscar Miranda, business development manager of eSports at Wargaming; Daniel Kelley, director of HyperX corporate marketing; Steven Arhancet, co-founder of Team Liquid; and Ujesh Desai, vice president and general manager of Logitech G talk to [a]listdaily about the different opportunities found in eSports and how non-endemic brands can get into the game.

How can non-endemic brands benefit from eSports?

[Miranda]: I regularly hear partner interest around reaching a younger audience. In addition, the mediums that eSports uses to connect with its audience have largely gone unnoticed by non-endemic brands. The eSports space sells itself to non-endemics with the promise of reaching a younger audience using non-traditional engagement mediums. Non-endemic brands also benefit from eSports by simply remaining relevant.

[Kelley]: ESports is becoming a worldwide phenomenon, creating global superstars and revenue opportunities that non-endemic brands can capitalize on. Non-endemic brands can strengthen and better define their brand within the key demographic of young gamers who are likely in the market for their products or services.

[Arhancet]: Reach and authentically engage with the millennial, male audience digitally for fractions of the cost they are used to. It’s a no-brainer for brands who put the effort into learning more.

[Desai]: ESports presents a huge opportunity to non-endemic brands to connect with an audience that has, in many ways, abandoned traditional media. ESports fans are highly passionate and fun. They represent a key demographic for building a sustained brand, and the fans are very likely to spend their time and money with brands they believe share their passions. For non-endemic brands I think eSports represents an opportunity to really connect authentically with one of the fastest growing mediums around.

What’s the key to connecting with the eSports audience through marketing?

[Miranda]: ESports became cool because it’s remained genuine with organic voices largely influenced by its gaming communities. Marketing efforts aimed at connecting with eSports audiences must champion these existing messages and voices or risk being immediately dismissed as fake. This is an intelligent audience with its finger on the pulse of authenticity. I don’t mean to imply that it’s an insurmountable challenge. But it is critical that marketing campaigns offer intelligent integration more so than traditional media.

[Kelley]: Be authentic. At HyperX there is a deep appreciation for the gaming scene, players and fans. We are committed to helping advance the eSports community, and as a result, we really treat every bit of marketing we do with a layer of loyalty and originality to ensure we’re helping the industry grow in the right way. This commitment is underscored by our team’s efforts to create products that help gamers do what they love most at fair price points. In addition, we are constantly working to forge relationships with new players, leagues and teams to help drive awareness for eSports and cultivate a positive gameplay culture.

[Arhancet]: Authenticity, be real folks.

[Desai]: ESports fans, and gamers in general, can sniff out BS like a bloodhound. In order to engage with them you have to do it thru wholly authentic messages and content they find compelling. It is okay to market to them, but it has to be real.

What opportunities does the digital and mobile consumption of eSports content open up for brands?

[Miranda]: As eSports fans, we’re constantly connected to our hobbies, whether digitally at home or mobile. Oftentimes, they’re using multiple devices to engage simultaneously. Recalling the question around how non-endemic brands can benefit from eSports: it’s in using newer, compelling tools to engage fans.

[Kelley]: ESports is a complete shift in entertainment and culture that is seizing a growing amount of young gamers’ attentions. With the bulk of viewership coming online, brands can garner significant global exposure while having a built-in way to measure, track and optimize their marketing efforts.

[Arhancet]: Be in early and reach a massive audience for fractions of what it would cost to get in late.

[Desai]: ESports fans, like many of the highly-connected youth today, consume massive amounts of media on their phones. A huge opportunity is to help deliver that media thru relevant and highly entertaining content. Logitech G does that through content that helps provide insight into the daily lives of the pros to better help fans connect to their heroes.

What advice would you give to a brand interested in entering eSports at this stage?

[Miranda]: It’s an intimidating space when you consider eSports explosiveness that’s attracted massive investments. My advice is to look beyond the headlines, recognize that the space and opportunity is real and there’s an assortment of players involved. While many of the top programs, teams and pros are backed by high-profile capital intent on staking an early claim, it’s also a wide open space constantly inviting new amateurs, up-and-coming teams, new leagues and games looking for their niche. These up and comers are far more accessible. If you want to get involved, there’s ample opportunity to do so. And boarding the hype train of a program that pays dividends later is a realistic possibility.

[Kelley]: Do your homework. What’s unique about eSports is that it’s a market shaped by multiple levels of content—the players, games, technology and fans. Moreover, eSports is a quickly growing and ever-changing landscape, so what’s true today might be completely different a year from now. With so many moves and new money coming in, be sure to understand and pick the spots that best align with your brand.

[Arhancet]: Talk to me.

[Desai]: Jump in! This is a highly engaged and passionate audience. Be real. Be authentic. Be engaging.

Given its current trajectory, where do you see eSports five years from now?

[Miranda]: Five years ago, the major eSports titles were hosting inaugural events at trade shows—a far cry from the sold out stadium experiences we’ve come to expect today. While I don’t think that changes, I do think that that we’ll be introduced to new engagement mediums offering greater, immersive experiences using existing technology—experiences that increase interactivity between viewers at home and the broadcasts they enjoy. On the administrative side, increased professionalism between competitors, publishers and developers to boast mature systems that were unheard of ten years ago today. I expect developers and publishers to map out eSports strategies with their titles early, prior to launch, harnessing the importance of audience retention on the back of its competitive gaming programs.

[Kelley]: Certainly, bigger with wider mass-market awareness. I envision more structure to the tournaments in terms of cooperation on scheduling, rules and potentially a move towards a players union where there is more consistency and transparency on player/team relationships. All of this will bring more and more opportunities for brands to get exposure within a very exciting and loyal community of gamers.

[Arhancet]: Where other professional sports are now, but just consumed digitally.

[Desai]:  ESports is growing tremendously and Logitech G has played a key role in this transformation since the early days. Five years from now it is easy to imagine that eSports will be a top three player in competitive entertainment. That means it will be a mainstream sport and will have emerged from the shadows.

Learn everything you need to know to invest in today’s fastest-growing media channel—Competitive Gaming and eSports on 2.16.17 in Los Angeles. Go to alistsummit.com for more info.

Rick Fox Reveals Key To Connecting With ESports Fans

Rick Fox continues to promote eSports to the mainstream media while ensuring that his team, Echo Fox is connecting with the competitive gaming audience in an authentic way. His team now competes across Call of Duty, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Gears of War, League of Legends, H1Z1, Mortal Kombat X, Street Fighter V and Super Smash Bros. Additionally, Fox has entered into a partnership with Asus and its Republic of Gamers (RoG) brand to provide his players with the hardware to practice and prepare for the extremely competitive field of eSports gaming.

Echo Fox won a major victory in the North American League of Legends Championship Series on Saturday, turning the game series around. Fox began his pro basketball career as a first round pick for the Boston Celtics out of UNC Chapel Hill before joining the Los Angeles Lakers in 1997, where he became part of a team that won three consecutive NBA Championships. He explains how he’s parlaying that knowledge and success from the NBA into the burgeoning eSports market in this exclusive interview with [a]listdaily.

What is the correlation between the PC hardware that Echo Fox uses to practice with and the sneakers and gear professional athletes use to compete on the hardwood?

The preparation of any professional athlete is paramount to their success. We understand that. What we suit up in or the equipment we use—professional athletes are very particular about how they align themselves with the technology they’re using. That’s definitely on a parallel track to what we see in the professional world of gaming. I’m noticing the particulars in my own players as they search to become champions, as we push towards supporting them to the highest level to get to where they want to get. It is giving them the tools to succeed at the highest level and become champions. So, a partnership with Asus and their dedication to delivering the most innovative hardcore hardware that any gamer, let alone a professional gamer, helps Echo Fox is on this track to become the premier eSports franchise.

Echo Fox LOL

How does this partnership with Asus go beyond a typical sports sponsorship deal?

It goes further because of the stage we’re at in the eSports landscape. We’re infants still. It’s been around now for a number of years, but when you compare it to traditional professional sports, we are babies. When you’re as young as we are, you really need to collectively come together to grow the industry and really take something like eSports and make it a mainstream conversation. But you also have a seat at the table with the rest of traditional sports.

[That’s] what I’m excited for as one of the leaders in this space, and Asus has been leading in this way for ten years now, with their commitment to building the community of eSports with the tools that they need to perform at the highest level. I’m focused on the highest level performers becoming champions. When I think of what it’s going to take as leaders in the landscape to have this continued growth to a level that I have come from, which is basketball, and have it rival the viewership of traditional sports world championships, it’s important that Echo Fox continues to partner with brands that are committed to building the community and eSports as a whole.

As more non-endemic brands enter eSports, what role do you see the endemics like Asus playing in the landscape moving forward?

We all have to educate those that have been sticking a toe in and are now trying to jump in more confidently. That is obviously due to the commitment that individuals like Asus and RoG have made for ten years now. They’ve made it a more attractive and safer endeavor because they’ve educated the rest of the marketplace. As professional gaming becomes more of a voice, professional gamers are going to become household names like Tom Brady is today—or an individual like myself who played for three championships with the Lakers with Shaq and Kobe. Asus and RoG, in their commitment to engaging fans, have dominated because these fans are no longer just casual gamers. They’re becoming professional gamers, so that commitment is really important as we grow.

What has been one of the keys to connecting with the millennial eSports audience?

One of the most important things is authenticity. Today’s consumer, this generation, has been spammed with advertisements since the inception. They have access to every device known to mankind, and just the consumption of eSports and video game content as a whole has gotten easier because it’s everywhere and it can be in your hand and on your laptop—it can be whenever you want it. What I’ve seen in the content that has reached and connected is there has to be an authenticity there. A genuine desire to engage and participate, not just talk to and dictate. When you see a consumer come online and spend their quality hours—which a lot of them do two to three hours on end when they sit down to game—that has a core authentic background to them. It comes up through the roots. Asus is that. Echo Fox is growing up through the roots of eSports from an authentic place, and they’re going to connect because they’re going to feel that the authenticity and the direction of both of those brands are there for the long haul and not just their dollar.

How have you been able to apply the lessons learned from the success you’ve had in sports and in entertainment to Echo Fox and eSports?

It’s a daily education. It’s a daily search, and evolving from my sporting background to becoming an owner. Remember, I was a player. I had one of the greatest owners in professional sports with Jerry Buss, who gave me an example of what it looked like to be an owner that was committed to his franchise pursuing championships and excellence. And he gave me an example of what it’d look like to support his players to becoming the best they can be. I pull from that all the time. I hold onto the fact that I believe that this is not a huge Grand Canyon leap from traditional sports to professional sports and gaming. I see them hand-in-hand. I’m pulling them closer and closer together on a daily basis and [figuring out] how we can move that conversation forward. I just pull from my own traditional experiences and I believe that there’s a greater seat at the table and we should all blend competition into one household.

In your own career with sports, you were able to put on classic team jerseys. What’s it been like from a ground level to create Echo Fox, its logos, and an identity that future generations will be rooting for?

I haven’t really popped my head up to breathe yet to look around and really take in and celebrate the journey of last year because the second year came in like a wave. Having the opportunity to launch our second year with Asus has been invigorating and is revitalizing our franchise with more responsibility and commitment to just being an example and carrying the message. With the logo itself—I can think back to how it came to life and how people respond to it the way they do. To see it stand side-by-side on a jersey with Asus, I should stop and celebrate. But there’s so much work to be done. So, you’re giving me that moment now to really stop to talk about it for a second here and think about how far we’ve come in such a short time. But I know how far we need to go and where we want to get to, so I’m just going to drop my head back down and go back to work.

Learn everything you need to know to invest in today’s fastest-growing media channel—Competitive Gaming and eSports on 2.16.17 in Los Angeles. Go to alistsummit.com for more info.

AEG Exec Discusses Why They Are In ESports

From the 02 Arena in England to the Staples Center in Los Angeles and the newly erected T-Mobile Arena on the Las Vegas Strip, AEG owns and operates 90 venues, 20 sports teams and events, and 30 music festivals around the world. And whether it be the Grammy Awards, NBA Finals, UFC or Coachella, the sports and live entertainment company knows how to play host.

That party has a new VIP guest list because AEG secured a long-term global partnership with the world’s largest eSports company in ESL last year to align each of their assets to further broaden the reach of eSports around the world.

Whether it’s the League of Legends World Championship at Staples Center, the CS:GO ESL Pro League finals at 02 Arena, ESL One at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center or the Intel Extreme Masters in Oakland’s Oracle Arena, the partnership leverages AEG’s leadership in live event production, ticketing, marketing and sponsorship and allows ESL to utilize AEG’s global network.

As eSports transforms the global sports landscape, the geographic reach and optimized operations are being expanded, too.

Mike Lee is director of digital for AEG Global Partnerships, which creates sales and marketing platforms for partners to activate and promote their brands. He joined [a]listdaily to share how AEG is leveraging the growing sport.

How is AEG positioning the company in eSports?

From music festivals to professional sports, we consider ourselves the premiere live event promotors in the world. For us, we look at new arenas of opportunity. The numbers and opportunities for eSports are undeniable. We look at ourselves as a ‘first-mover’ and we’re really excited about it. With all of the venues we have around the world, it’s a perfect marriage for us with ESL.

You are based in Los Angeles, where you recently hosted the League of Legends World Championship. What are you learning from each event that you produce?

We really do get to see the difference in audiences. We have data on what the basketball fan, or hockey fan ‘looks like.’ Now we’re creating a whole new segment on what the eSports fan ‘looks like.’ We have data on everything from food and beverage to mobile apps and foot traffic, and how people are interacting with us. ESL is a lot more different because it’s multiple games, all weekend, all day long. League of Legends is like a Super Bowl. We have the unique opportunity of sitting in the middle and to be able to see all of this and learn from it to make smart, insightful decisions in the future.

How are you marketing differently toward the eSports audience?

We position the eSports fan as your cord cutter. They’re similar in a way to a traditional sports fan because they are just as passionate about their sport. They are spending money on tickets, travel and merchandise. The way they are not similar is how they consume media. You have a mobile-first audience that’s not watching traditional sports, or even big events like the Super Bowl. This allows AEG to extend its portfolio and say that ‘we can hit the whole gamut of age demographics.’ We have large deals with sponsors. Our biggest partners are Microsoft and Coca-Cola. For us, we’re able to introduce those brands to our eSports portfolio.

How do you work with non-endemic brands who are looking for an entry path into eSports?

Our first recommendation to them is ‘join us for an actual event to experience it.’ The numbers speak for themselves. Whether you’re at the NBA Finals or Coachella, it’s one of those things that when you walk through parking lot and into the doors, you get it. It is a super passionate audience. Your average chief marketing officer is not going to these kind of eSports events. The makeup in eSports is very different compared to the high-end marketing executives. So I say come and experience it with us and you’ll realize that the numbers are not too big to be true. Generally, when a brand comes to us and is passionate about it, it’s usually because their children or grandchildren are already passionate about gaming.

If you were speaking to a room filled with marketers, what would your advice be to them?

I can share the story only to an extent. I would advise them to speak to people in the demographic. Get five high school, or college-aged people into a room and ask them about the big players in the sport, and see what they say. Most CMOs don’t know who Faker is. You need to speak to fans who follow the players, and to the ones who even donate thousands of dollars to them through Twitch. Ask them, ‘You only make $1,000 a month––why are you donating $40 to this streamer?’ You will believe it as soon as you hear it straight out of their mouth. That’s when it starts to make sense. That’s why we’re beating on every door and saying ‘this is the next big thing.’

How do you see the space evolving in the immediate future? 

The future of eSports is up in the air. I think that it’s a land grab right now. Everyone is wondering ‘do I go after the talent? Do I go after the team? Do I go after the developer? Who is the person that’s eventually going to own the IP rights? When mobile starts penetrating the market, what else is going to come up? What country is going to produce the Michael Jordan of eSports?’ It will be interesting to see how all of this develops.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan

Learn everything you need to know to invest in today’s fastest-growing media channel—Competitive Gaming and eSports on 2.16.17 in Los Angeles. Go to alistsummit.com for more info.

How HyperX Connects With ESports Audience With ELeague

High-performance computer hardware maker, HyperX, has sponsored eSports for over a decade. It is a major sponsor at ESL and MLG tournaments, and it didn’t hesitate to become one when ELeague started last year. The company provides high-end headsets for ELeague players who compete on both online streaming and televised broadcasts while highlighting top-performing players in a special spot called the “X Factor.” Additionally, it engages the eSports community with content such as the “HyperX BootCamp,” which adds a fun spin to eSports training with some off-the-wall activities.

Late last month, ELeague hosted its first CS:GO Major tournament from the historic Fox Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia. The sold out Major Grand Final (which aired on TBS) became the first event in the history of Twitch to surpass one million concurrent viewers. The success shows how eSports viewership remains primarily on digital, even though considerable progress is being made with popularizing it on television.

HyperX’s director of corporate marketing, Daniel Kelley, spoke with [a]listdaily about working with ELeague and the company’s long history with the eSports scene.

Daniel Kelly, director of marketing at HyperX
Daniel Kelley, director of corporate marketing at HyperX

What drew HyperX to become an ELeague sponsor?

HyperX has been a major sponsor of ESL, MLG and other tried-and-true eSports tracks. So, when ELeague approached us and we saw that Turner was behind it—I’m a big fan of the broadcasts that Turner puts on with TNT and TBS—and we really liked what Turner was trying to do. [They were looking to] capture the excitement of eSports and developing a high production league and taking that leap of putting it on broadcast TV, but not losing the fact that online streaming and the accessibility of eSports is important to its biggest fan base. They made sure that all of the online consumption via Twitch was there, but they thought they could get some crossover to a broader audience with the cable TV show.

Also, we knew that they would be coming at it with a long-term investment and a high production value. A lot of what we try to do as a brand was to not only keep our commitment to a hardcore PC gaming audience, but branch out to wider gamers in general. It all sort of aligned, and from there, we got into the typical negotiations and everything else. Fast forward a year, and I’d say what they pulled off with the ELeague CS:GO Major having over a million Twitch viewers watch is pretty impressive. We’re very happy with the partnership and we look forward to it being a long-lasting one.

Is there a difference between approaching the ELeague sponsorship compared to the ESL when considering the television viewing audience?

I’d say it’s still pretty straightforward with the online broadcasts and the in-stream branding and placements. We approach it knowing that most of eSports content is going to be consumed online and digitally, so we wanted that to be our number one priority for branding and product messaging. But we did factor television into our negotiations and our approach. We had a lot of spots that ran on TBS each season, which gave us a nice widening of our brand awareness to casual fans. It was a slightly different approach, but I’d say the core method of leveraging these sponsorships was very similar to what we do with ESL and others.

How was HyperX integrated into ELeague?

We have our logo branding on the overlay of the online stream. We also worked with ELeague on the “X Factor” highlights during matches, which highlights a particular player and their performance during a game or match. It’s an ongoing HyperX-focused callout of someone who is doing well. There was also some in-stadium branding, and we were able to set up shop at the Majors, where people could come to our booth and try on our headsets. That’s all in addition to the 30-second spots that we worked with Turner on and the ELeague sponsorship.

How did the “HyperX BootCamp” promotion come together?

That was a very exciting time here and was a crazy week, for sure—having both Na’Vi and SK Gaming here. We did all kinds of fun activities in addition to having them play the games that they know so well and the fans crave. That actually came very collaboratively through a proactive approach on the teams’ side, and we embraced it and wanted to make it as “HyperX-y” as we could. A lot of ideas are coming from these teams in the way content can be created, and we embraced the overall concept of a wild BootCamp. We opened our doors to have these teams in here all week and brainstormed the various activities you see in the YouTube videos. The brainstorming and collaboration made it something that we shared. We had a fun time, and I think the fans really enjoyed it.

How has HyperX used eSports to engage with its audience?

We’ve been sponsoring eSports teams for over a decade. That all started a long time ago when we were looking at who were the customers buying our high-performance memory, SSDs and other products. We saw a common thread: they were avid gamers who wanted to build the best-of-the-best machines so that their games would perform flawlessly so that they would remain very competitive. So, we tapped into the gaming community very early on, and it has flourished very well since then.

We learned a lot about the [eSports] space—most the employees here at HyperX are avid gamers—and we wanted to feed the community authentic, raw and funny content, activations and experiences. There are a lot of parallels to traditional sports, where the fans want to get close the athletes that they admire and love to watch. So, what we do is bring these personalities out of these players by getting them doing unique, fun and creative things. We give fans access to autograph signings when we have a booth at a tournament or event like PAX. We want to make sure we’re facilitating that connection between the players and the fans in unique ways while creating a lot of great content for fans to consume. Along the way, hopefully fans will like our brand and what we’re doing. There’s a big investment and commitment to eSports, and we’ve seen some nice growth for the company as a result of that.

What would you say is the difference between an eSports consumer and a straightforward competitive video game enthusiast?

I’d say that there are a lot of the same traits across both types of players. The denominator is there is a love of gaming and competition. They’re either playing on a day-to-day basis or they’re playing part of the time, then watching the best in the world play. Along with that, they want the best experience possible, and that’s where we can come in to provide the best headsets, keyboards and mice to keep their love of gaming going and play our small part in the bigger world of competitive gaming.

I think they’re very similar, to be honest. There are a lot of people who like to go out and play basketball, but don’t watch much of the NBA. They still have a love of that sport and the competitive element that comes with it. I also think that there’s an admiration for anyone who is the best in a sport or industry. If you’re really good at a game, you watch other people who are also really good and see what they’re able to do. It’s rather awe-inspiring, just like in traditional sports.

Learn everything you need to know to invest in today’s fastest-growing media channel—Competitive Gaming and eSports—on 2.16.17 in Los Angeles. Go to alistsummit.com for more info.

MasterCard CMO Raja Rajamannar Details Grammy Awards And Masterpass Marketing Strategy

MasterCard is making a major marketing move this weekend on music’s biggest night for the Grammys to further create consumer and fan awareness for its digital payment solution in Masterpass.

The New York-based global financial institution is currently front-and-center in Los Angeles with a one-of-a-kind experiential record store at the now-defunct Tower Records building excitement for Sunday night’s Grammy Awards. The interactive music experience activation aims at thanking its fans with exclusive performances with artists like Anderson Paak (tonight) as well as the opportunity to purchase rare vinyl records for $10.

The weekend proceedings, which officially started Wednesday, will culminate Sunday when MasterCard will unlock special offers for those tuned in to the live broadcast that can be taken advantage of with Masterpass for just $1.

With such a huge undertaking comes an even larger marketing strategy.

Raja Rajamannar, MasterCard’s chief marketing and communications officer responsible for building the MasterCard brand, driving business for MasterCard products and services, took a brief break from the Masterpass #ThankTheFans House to join [a]listdaily and dish details on how they’re reaching digital-first consumers.

MasterCard CMO Raja Rajamannar

Why was it critical for MasterCard to move forward with this experiential marketing move?

The move is critical because consumers have changed. They are more connected than ever to their digital devices and to each other; they are moving faster than ever across multiple devices and multiple channels; and their attention span is only becoming shorter and shorter. They are not willing to waste even a few seconds of their time on irrelevant content. As a brand it’s getting harder to reach your audience. Today you earn their attention by creating experiences that are truly engaging.

What is the brand trying to accomplish with this campaign?

Now core to our Priceless marketing strategy is the idea that we value our experiences over our possessions. This isn’t a fad—it’s a deep, human truth that first struck a chord with consumers two decades ago, and today has become even more relevant. When we considered all of this cultural change, and the increasing importance of experiences, we realized that Priceless is an idea that cannot—and should not—be contained in traditional advertising. We need to go way beyond showing priceless experiences in commercials—we need to give our cardholders the tools to create their own. And through our sponsorships, and with global platforms like Priceless Cities and Priceless Surprises, we’re doing exactly that—evolving our brand’s role from observing priceless moments to enabling priceless experiences. Our goal is to create an emotional bond with consumers and to deliver to them one-of-a-kind experiences they can only get with MasterCard.

Why are the Grammy’s the ideal partner to leverage your brand equity?

MasterCard has long celebrated music as a passion that transcends geographic and demographic boundaries. This year, we’re celebrating the music fan in all of us by delivering something truly unique with the Masterpass #ThankTheFans initiative. When you look at music events, what’s bigger or more celebrated than the Grammy Awards? We’ve been fortunate to partner with The Recording Academy as sponsor of the Grammy Awards for nine years now and thought it the perfect venue to introduce #ThankTheFans.

Why are you trying to tap into the renewed interest in vinyl records?

Consumers are shifting their spend away from items to experiences, and those retailers that can deliver both an experiential in-store environment, as well as an engaging digital environment are thriving. At the same time, digital payment capabilities are making the point-of-sale experience seamless and secure. The Masterpass #ThankTheFans House brings this to life by providing an environment where visitors can explore their passion for music and have access to purchase rare and unique vinyl. Vinyl has seen a significant resurgence over the past few years and it was the perfect way to showcase how a ‘new school’ technology like Masterpass can now provide consumers access into the ‘old school’ pursuit of collecting vinyl.

Is the purchase-to-participation program something you’ve previously tested?

We do hope the #ThankTheFans campaign drives awareness for and adoption of Masterpass. Through it, we will be able to demonstrate the simplicity Masterpass provides users for everyday purchases but also highlight the experiential access it can open doors to—like attending the Grammy Awards themselves. You have a highly engaged audience during the Grammys that is actively seeking a way to participate in the excitement of the evening, and with #ThankTheFans and Masterpass, we are providing that opportunity.

Is it essentially designed to drive adoption of Masterpass?

Consumers also value the relationship they have with their bank, and with this insight, the go-to-market strategy for Masterpass is to deliver a simple secure payment option that’s seamlessly integrated with our issuer partners. This allows them to provide the utility of Masterpass in conjunction with other benefits they offer, like account balances, purchase history and more. It’s about taking the utility and familiarity of the plastic card in your wallet and bringing it into the digital sphere because that’s how consumers today are increasingly preferring to pay.

What is the Masterpass strategy on communicating with digital-first consumers? How do you reach them?

Masterpass is a digital solution, so it’s inherent in the platform to look to digital as an opportunity to engage with consumers. But there are several important things to remember. You need to communicate like a friend. The consumer needs to think that that message is made exclusively for them, and not for the masses. You need to customize. Consumers don’t want to look or feel like everybody else. They want a unique experience. You need digital so consumers can pay however they want; the journey needs to be frictionless and seamless. You need social buzz around your brand that no marketing agency, that no media company can replicate. The power of the consumer voice is stronger than multi-millions of dollars in a marketing contract. You need to provide something safe and secure. MasterCard brings safety and security to our partners in a way that allows for the personal, the custom, the digital and the social to exist. For us, that is paramount.


What is the integrated social media strategy for #ThankTheFans? What platforms do you plan on testing?

#ThankTheFans is inherently social. Social is a platform for dedicated music fans to connect more efficiently and deeply with artists as well as a tool to show their devotion in ways big and small. It’s the home of fan armies, the hub of participation during awards shows and the platform for endless exchange of artist news and information among fans. Social is the perfect place to target and reward the unsung heroes of Grammys night—the fans. #ThankTheFans is a social ecosystem. Fans engage most heavily on Twitter during The Grammys. Eighty-one percent of Twitter users are on the platform while watching award shows, so this will be our primary channel of focus. Secondarily, we will use Facebook for its immersive storytelling and leverage and its scale. We’ll use Instagram stories as a way to connect influencers with Masterpass signups. We’ll also use Snapchat as an influencer tool for its intimate storytelling capabilities and personal point of view. We’ll drive excitement ahead of The Grammys by leveraging Facebook and Twitter video to communicate the program through superfan outtakes, like fan devotion moments. With Twitter’s alarm clock-like feature called Retweet for Reminder, we’ll get fans closer to prizes on Grammy’s night by encouraging them to sign up for Masterpass using Facebook Canvas. And finally, we’ll tweet directly at fans incentivizing them with bonus offers if they can get their favorite artists to #ThankTheFans.

On the ground, we’ll be inviting local fans in Los Angeles to our #ThankTheFans House. There, fans can meet MasterCard’s own devoted influencer fans who will be using Snapchat Stories and Instagram Live to share their experiences. Additionally, anyone that Snapchats inside the house will receive a unique Snapchat geofilter to add to the content they are creating. During the Grammys, fans should look out for a tweet unlocking nine deals—one will be unlocked as each acceptance speech begins. If an artist thanks the fans, MasterCard will release additional bonus offers.

What else can fans expect?

We have two messaging goals with our social program. First is awareness of the program, and explaining how it works and get fans excited about the exclusive prizes they can buy for just $1 on Grammys night. The second is sharing and showcasing #ThankTheFan stories with human stories and content that remind loyal fans that it is their own devotion that has given artists the success they enjoy today.

Tom Petty

Is cause marketing a trend marketers should be zeroing in on?

We absolutely believe so. First, MasterCard as an organization is one that believes in doing well by doing good. In this sense it’s about leveraging our technology and expertise to bring products and services into the world that will enable new consumers and new markets to more broadly participate in the world’s connected economy—this is not philanthropic, per se, and more about leveraging our tech for good, while still growing the bottom line. This is an important point to understand as it speaks to the essence of who we are as a company. For everyday consumers, I already mentioned the way how interactions and transactions have changed. Where and how people spend their time is up to them, and thanks to digital technologies and social platforms they literally have the power to make or break a brand at their fingertips. That said, we know today that consumers value brands, retailers and even employers that believe in and enable giving—and so much so that they would switch brands to one associated with a cause, given comparable price and quality. These insights, coupled with the numerous studies that show that giving money to others and to charity makes people happier than spending on themselves, are the underpinning of our Priceless Causes platform, where we use our technology to make it easy for consumers to contribute to some of their favorite causes while doing everyday things. This enables fundraising for the cause while also driving our business objectives.

In the US, a great example is our work with Stand Up to Cancer. We hold an annual campaign every summer, whereby just by using your MasterCard when dining out we contribute a small portion to Stand Up. To date we have raised over $35 million for cancer research. It’s an effort that both we and our cardholders feel very good about. This point is confirmed as we can see how our brand moves to the top of their wallet and for ongoing usage.

For our Grammys #ThankTheFans campaign, we have integrated our Priceless Causes concept. Masterpass users will have the exclusive opportunity to purchase hard-to-find vinyl for just $10 at our experiential record until Saturday, and all proceeds from the record sales will be donated to MusiCares. #ThankTheFans continues on music’s biggest night on Sunday—when Masterpass will unlock special offers for $1. Every time an award is presented during the broadcast, consumers can Masterpass $1 and receive special offers such as movie tickets, designer fashions or even a trip to next year’s Grammys. Again, the proceeds from this campaign will be donated to MusiCares. Again, it’s about creating experiences consumers will value, and that emotional connection point of using a brand or product that people feel good about and allows them to easily give back.

Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan

Facebook Hires Mina Lefevre As Head Of Video; Hasbro Promotes John Frascotti To President

From a new head of video at Facebook to diving into fast food, eSports and VR, here are some of the past week’s biggest job moves.

Facebook has hired Mina Lefevre, formerly a vice president for scripted programming at MTV, to head its video development team. Lefevre said in the announcement: “I have always been drawn to the idea of building something and the idea of being part of the team that helps build Facebook’s original content ecosystem. . . well, that just seems like a dream!”

Todd Smith, president and CMO for the restaurant chain, Sonic Corp. announced that he is stepping down from the role on March 9 to “pursue an entrepreneurial opportunity outside of the quick-service restaurant industry.”

Net-A-Porter, an online retailer, has appointed Dana Gers as its new global marketing and communications director. Porter, who is currently the senior vice president global brand marketing and communications at Jimmy Choo, will be taking up the role in April.

Television company, Skydance Media, promoted Don Granger to president of feature film production. In this role, Granger will oversee David Ellison’s film slate. This move comes a week after the company promoted Jesse Sisgold to president and chief operating officer and marks its ongoing goal of producing its own films while broadening into TV, virtual reality and other areas.

Bret Havey has been promoted to VP and brand creative director at Turner’s TBS and TNT channels. In this role, he will oversee all on-air promotions and creative initiatives for the two networks.

Disney-ABC TV Group is reorganizing ad sales, putting it all under one umbrella led by Rita Ferro. This means that instead of negotiating with ABC and Freeform separately, marketers can buy the portfolio together. Ferro will oversee all advertising sales functions and ad revenue-generating strategies for the company’s domestic entertainment, news and kids linear, digital TV and radio businesses.

While it hasn’t been confirmed, Walt Disney CEO Robert Iger may extend his tenure for a third time, say sources close to the company. Iger has been planning for retirement, which is still 16 months away, but a successor has yet to be found.

Hasbro announced the promotion of John Frascotti to president. According to a press release, “Frascotti will continue to lead Hasbro’s product design and development, global marketing, digital gaming, entertainment and consumer products initiatives.”

Vox Media, which operates the Verge and Re/code, named Trei Brundrett as its first chief operating officer and will presumably lead the company’s advertising technology, products and data with a focus on video and native ads.

Influencer marketing and media company, Whosay, added marketing industry veteran, Jim Speros to its board of directors.

Jeffrey Siminoff, who was controversially appointed as Twitter’s diversity chief last year, announced that he will be stepping down from the post at the end of the month.

The former head of Amazon’s Fire TV unit, Timothy D. Twerdahl, has been hired by Apple as its VP in charge of Apple TV product marketing.

VR media company, Jaunt, announced that it has hired former Hulu executive Jean-Paul “JP” Colaco as its first chief revenue officer. Colaco is tasked with turning Jaunt into a moneymaking business.

Former Next Games and Rovio vet, Kalle Kaivola, has joined the German studio group, Control Productions as COO. In this role, Kaivola will oversee existing teams, recruit new members, and monitor performance quality across businesses that currently consist of 18 teams that include an in-house publisher, a gamification unit and 15 separate development units.

Adam Orth, who made a name for himself with the game Adr1ft, announced that his startup studio, Three One Zero, has “run its course.” He has now joined the VR studio, First Contact (creator of ROM: Extraction) as chief strategist. In this position, Orth expects to work on new IP in addition to assisting with business development and strategic relationships.

Former Sony VR expert, David Ranyard, unveiled a new independent studio, Dream Reality Interactive, which has a team comprised of former Sony London Studios developers. The company will focus on developing quality VR experiences.

Chinese mobile game publisher, Skymoons, has opened a new studio in Edinburgh, Scotland, which marks the first time the company has invested in game development for the area.

After announcing the start of a new (currently nameless) studio empire with offices in Edinburgh and LA, Leslie Benzies said that he will be opening a third office in Budapest. This office will be headed by Kristoffer Waardahl, the former head of Crytek Hungary.

Seattle-based lawyer, Bryce Blum, has founded the law firm ESG Law, the world’s first dedicated eSports firm. Blum currently works with several eSports teams and talents across the US, covering topics such as player contracts and endorsement deals.

TT Games, famous for developing the popular Lego games for Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, announced that it has acquired Playdemic, a studio based in Wilmslow, UK. The studio will work on new Lego mobile games.

Experts Discuss Livestreaming Opportunities That Go Beyond ESports

ESports is a hot field right now that continues to grow rapidly. However, entering into the arena with the right tone and commitment might not be something that every brand is ready for.

John Newlin, custom solutions director at Twitch, talked with [a]listdaily and laid out the main problem with reaching the coveted millennial audience.

“Video game livestreaming opens the door for brands to connect with one of the most fickle audiences in the market,” said Newlin. “Because they’re dominantly cord-cutters and even cord-nevers who consume their entertainment online, the 18-34-year-old demographic is almost impossible to effectively reach via traditional means. Streamers also build their own unique audiences, so brands have the ability to drill down and speak to very specific groups of consumers.”

So, what opportunities are there for brands that want to develop a strong livestreaming presence, but don’t necessarily want to get into eSports?

“When it comes to Twitch, brands that have the right custom campaign and the right broadcaster, have the opportunity to interact with their potential customers in real-time,” said Newlin. “In this sense, brands naturally become part of the experience. For example, Totino’s sponsored a program where Twitch chat controlled a couch mounted on a bucking mechanical bull. When enough people entered the spin command into chat, the couch would react accordingly and sent the broadcaster flying. The viewers enjoyed interacting with the streamer in this whimsical manner, while the brand was literally along for the ride.”

Twitch Star Trek Beyond PromoNewlin then detailed a global Twitch campaign to promote the movie Star Trek: Beyond. The campaign involved top streamers from Germany (P4wnyhof), Austria (Miss Rage), and the UK (onscreenlol), who were all broadcasting their livestreaming shows as usual on July 20. Then they were suddenly “beamed up,” leaving viewers staring at empty chairs and clues across their rooms and social media directing them to a special branded Twitch channel. A day later, the streamers were on the starship Enterprise for a live broadcast, where they squared off against Star Trek villains in a game of Rocket League to win their way back home.

“The two-hour special was hosted by a Vulcan, showed movie trailers and featured actual props from the movie with a huge prize giveaway,” said Newlin, describing the event. “At the end of the broadcast, the influencers beamed out of the Enterprise and viewers saw them rematerialize safely back at their homes. Not only does this illustrate a unique way to have streamers take part in a campaign, it’s the type of activation that could only be successfully deployed on Twitch.”

Beyond creative activations such as the Star Trek one, Newlin stated that brands can also sponsor individual broadcaster streams, coordinate product giveaways, create stream teams or integrate their products at events that streamers are covering.

“Twitch, for example, does partner lounges and community parties at many events that have been sponsored by both endemic and non-endemic brands. Of course, the epicenter of connecting with streamers is having a presence at TwitchCon 2017, which is on October 20-22 at the Long Beach Convention Center,” said Newlin. “Brands should also be aware that the core appeal of Twitch is the live social video element combined with an engaged community. This is why non-gaming categories like Twitch Creative and the newly launched IRL vlogging category are flourishing.”

Roker Media co-founder and managing partner, Ronald Pruett believes in a more foundational approach when creating livestreaming content, starting with picking the right platform. He told [a]listdaily that Roker Media specializes in connecting brands with its shows, such as Mario Armstrong’s Never Settle (Facebook’s first fully interactive live talk show), which has FedEx and Sony as sponsors and has Entrepreneur Magazine as a distribution partner. Never Settle will be shown on Entrepreneur.com (with a viewing audience of 40 million) in addition to Facebook Live, and almost as a demonstration of the company’s commitment to live broadcasts, the meeting with Entrepreneur to discuss the details of the deal was livestreamed.

With this in mind, Pruett emphasizes the importance of picking the right talent to keep shows entertaining and engaging. “Talent is critical when it’s live. They have to be able to carry the show.” said Pruett, who then cited Chef Justin Warner’s cooking show on Twitch, ChefShock, as a prime example.

“This guy did the show live for two hours a night, five days a week,” Pruett continued. “It worked because not only was he authentic as a gamer, and he was on the right platform (Twitch), but Justin was such a talent that he could keep you interested for two hours, which is hard to do.”

Pruett also discussed how livestreaming will develop differently than traditional influencer campaigns on YouTube. “We really think it will be more program driven than individually driven by an influencer,” he said. “In other words, we think that brands should look at creating their own unique content or programming on a continuous basis, versus traditional one-off influencer campaigns.”

So, instead of leveraging existing influencers, Pruett believes that brands should try to grow an influencer or program from the ground up. “Over time, I think that’s where brands benefit,” explained Pruett. “If they build their own programs, they become influencers themselves. I think a lot of brands have been able to do that. You can build your own community if you create your own content. I call it programming because it’s appointment viewing. It’s not just like a pop-up show. It’s something the shows every week or every day, and it could be a mystery or trivia show. We think that over time, that’s where livestreaming will look more like television than what we’ve seen on digital platforms.”

Chris Carley, TriplePoint PR’s influencer relations specialist, has organized events such as the Bay Area Live streamer meetup, and he told [a]listdaily about competitive gaming opportunities that don’t necessarily involve eSports.

speedrun“ESports is great for streaming, but at the same time, there is a level of engagement that happens between a content creator and his or her audience that isn’t possible with a giant, televised eSports competition,” Carley explains. “I think that people tune in to streams for much more than competitive gaming. For instance, an area that has massively expanded on Twitch in the last two years is the speedrunning (playing games in the shortest time) community. Awesome Games Done Quick even raised a record $2.2 million dollars for the Prevent Cancer Foundation. This wouldn’t be technically categorized as ‘eSports,’ but it has incredibly high engagement from a competitive standpoint.”

Carley continued by saying, “there are a multitude of untapped segments and sub-communities in gaming very similar to both of these. Wherever there is a shared interest—from specific genres to speedrunning—there is an audience out there and content creators reaching that audience.”

Sean Fee, chief product officer for the video game discovery and social platform, Player.me, agrees. He told [a]listdaily that, “the opportunities are in finding gaming niches. We all know that gaming is almost always broken into different sectors. There are segments for PC players and console players. Then there are the hardcore, the casuals and the eSports crowd. I think the main thing is to identify which kind of group you’re trying to target and then find the people who would represent your brand best in that grouping.”

Fee also suggests researching content creators and who they’re engaging with to make sure that there’s an authentic connection between them and the potential brand partners.

Steven Lai, group talent director at ION, offers this advice for brands that want to develop a stronger livestreaming audience: “Engaging with a live audience provides unique opportunities that brands need to leverage. Treat live as a dynamic, living, breathing machine instead of just slapping on a banner that could be run across any media vehicle. Build programs that lean into the immediate engagement and feedback.”

Learn everything you need to know to invest in today’s fastest-growing media channel—Competitive Gaming and eSports on 2.16.17 in Los Angeles. Go to alistsummit.com for more info.

Twitch Records, Vibrating Ads And Other Must-Read Marketing Stats

This week, we take a look at how haptic feedback may increase brand excitement, dispel a common myth about millennials on social media and dish details on how ad blocking may actually improve the way advertisements are made.

Marketing Quality Over Quantity

Digital marketing spend is projected to reach $118 billion by 2018, according to Forrester’s latest US Digital Marketing Forecast. However, the analyst firm predicts spending will slow overall as marketers place emphasis on brand experiences over volume-based advertising efforts.

“We are seeing a shift away from quantity, toward quality. Within the next five years, we anticipate investment in ad impressions going down. Instead, marketing budgets will go towards brand experiences, CX and in-store experiences and knowledge of sales agents—the things that will help demonstrate brand promise,” said Shar VanBoskirk, principal analyst at Forrester, in a statement. “Many companies now are wasting impressions, which can annoy customers. It is important to determine user needs and tailor content appropriately. In addition, the structure of marketing and digital teams will shift as agencies take a more holistic and integrated approach to planning.”

Problematic Programmatic

Meanwhile, digital programmatic spend is on the rise, according to a new report by MediaRadar. The total monthly brands buying campaigns increased by 86 percent from January to November in 2016. For the first quarter of 2016, the report states an average of 726 brands placed campaigns each month—and that number leapt to 1,094 by the fourth quarter.

Not all marketers are happy with programmatic purchasing through agency trading desks, according to a new report from the World Federation of Advertisers. “Advertisers are demanding a new kind of relationship that provides significantly improved control and transparency,” WFA said in a statement, “with nearly 90 percent reviewing and resetting contracts and business models to deliver on these objectives.”

“Touching” Advertisements

Traditional advertisements are experienced through sight, sound and motion, but what happens when you add touch to the mix? Consumers like it, according to new research from Interpublic’s Media Lab and Magna. A panel of 1,137 Android users were presented with advertisements from BMW, Royal Caribbean, Arby’s (see video below) and Truvia that unlike traditional ads, vibrated the user’s device at certain times in an attempt to make them more immersive.

The study found that well-executed haptic applications increased the viewer’s engagement with an ad, as well as a sense of connection with a brand. This resulted in positive emotional responses, especially happiness and excitement. Standard (non-vibrating) versions of tested video ads achieved happiness and excitement levels of 37 percent and 30 percent, respectively while versions enhanced with haptic feedback generated rates of 44 percent (happiness) and 38 percent (excitement).

That Which Blocks Us Makes Us Stronger

More than three quarters of marketers (76 percent) “think ad-blocking will be positive for the industry, encouraging greater creativity” according to research by The Chartered Institute of Marketing. Consulting 255 marketing professionals, the study also discovered marketing priorities for the coming year that include personalization (42 percent), data-driven marketing (37 percent) and influencer marketing (31 percent).

Teenagers, in particular, don’t have much patience for mobile advertising, according to an October study of internet users from Kantar Millward Brown. Approximately 56 percent of 16-to-19-year-olds said they skipped ads “whenever they can” on a desktop computer, while 47 percent of teens said the same about ads on a mobile device.

Keeping It Real

When it comes to advertising, generations may not always agree on controversial issues, but there is one thing they can agree on. A September survey of US internet users from Barkley and Futurecast found that a significant majority of respondents of all ages said they favor ads that “show real people, not just gender stereotypes from the past.”

On the contrary, when respondents were asked whether or not they agreed that “changing ideas about gender are allowing more people to be themselves,” 60 percent of GenZ (ages 15-to-19) and 58 percent of millennials (ages 20 to 35) said “yes,” compared with 52 percent of baby boomers.


AI Is The New UI

Technology can and should be used to improve lives, according to Technology for People, the 2017 report by Accenture. Seventy-nine percent of survey respondents agreed that AI will revolutionize the way they gain information from and interact with customers. In addition, 80 percent of executives surveyed agreed that organizations need to understand not only where people are today, but also where they want to be, and shape technology to act as their guide to realize desired outcomes.

Deloitte warns, however, that AI is merely a subset of a larger, more important category of technologies (MI) that also include machine learning, deep learning, cognitive analytics, robotics process automation and bots, just to name a few.

“Collectively, these and other tools constitute machine intelligence: algorithmic capabilities that can augment employee performance, automate increasingly complex workloads, and develop ‘cognitive agents’ that simulate both human thinking and engagement,” the company says in its Tech Trends 2017: The Kinetic Enterprise report.

What’s VR, Again?

According to a new report by Forrester Research, 42 percent of US online adults have never heard about VR headsets and an additional 46 percent said they don’t see a use for VR in their lives.

“There is much more hype than substance when it comes to using VR specifically for marketing,” said Samantha Merlivat, an analyst at Forrester Research. “A lot of brands have tried VR in the last year, and in many cases, it left marketers and consumers rather underwhelmed.”

ABI Research is a bit more optimistic, however, saying that VR is “ready to thrive off a swath of new and compelling content choices.” The company predicts that total VR device shipments will reach 110 million by 2021. Standalone devices will see a 405 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) through 2021, compared to a 42 percent CAGR for mobile VR.

Millennials On Social And On The Street

Try not to faint or anything, but the stereotype of millennials glued to social media may not be as true as once thought. In fact, GenX is a little more obsessed, it turns out. A study by Nielsen Group found that adults ages 35-to-49 spend an average of 6 hours 58 minutes a week on social media networks, compared with 6 hours 19 minutes for users 18-to-34.

A separate study by Crowdtap determined that millennials value practicality in a vehicle over luxury. Eighty-eight percent purchased a car rather than rent and just under 66 percent drove used cars under $25,000.


Moving Mochas On Mobile

Starbucks has invested a lot into its mobile offerings, from a dedicated app to chatbots and integration into messaging platform, WeChat. That investment seems to be paying off, according to earnings in the first quarter of this financial year. Orders made through mobile devices jumped from three to seven percent and the percentage of total transactions, whether ordered through mobile or not, that were completed with mobile payment jumped to 27 percent.

ECommerce Without Borders

Cross-border retail volumes are predicted to increase at an annual average rate of 25 percent between 2015 and 2020, twice the pace of domestic eCommerce growth, according to The 21st Century Spice Trade: A Guide to the Cross-Border E-Commerce Opportunity—a report prepared by DHL Express. The shipping provider highlights the benefit of offering cross-border shipping, stating that online retailers boost sales by 10-15 percent on average.

All Your Twitch Views Belong To Us

Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok, a member of the professional League of Legends team SKT T1, broke a Twitch record on February 6 for an individual streamer by attracting 245,100 concurrent viewers to his channel. Amazingly this was also his first broadcast ever on the livestreaming site.

There’s a reason people are watching—the guy is good. The Korean player has won the League of Legends World Championship three times and has earned over $896,596 in prize money. Thanks to Faker’s streaming success, the entire SKT T1 will now use Twitch as their official streaming site.

Asus Details Echo Fox Partnership; New ESports Strategy

Asus Republic of Gamers (ROG) signed a multi-year deal with former three-time NBA champion Rick Fox’s team. Echo Fox will use Asus ROG PC hardware, including desktops, laptops, monitors, mice, and more. In addition, Asus ROG appears on the official Echo Fox jerseys for teams in the Call of Duty, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Gears of War, League of Legends, H1Z1, Mortal Kombat X, Street Fighter V and Super Smash Bros. leagues. The sponsorship also includes Echo Fox player content for the ROG community.

Asus North America chief marketing officer, Vivian Lien, told [a]listdaily that the company started the Republic of Gamers brand back in 2006 because it saw gaming was an important part of the PC experience. 

“We’ve been watching eSports from the very beginning,” Lien said. “It started out stronger in Asia Pacific than in Europe or North America. Several years back, we ventured into working with the teams and trying to get an understanding of how to become a meaningful part of the community. We know a lot of players through our grassroots efforts and we know what is important when a sponsor like Asus comes onto the picture.”

Lien added that this deal with Echo Fox is part of a new strategy for the company, which is looking for the right opportunity in working with teams and players to offer something to the gaming community as a whole.

“A few years back, we sponsored a few teams in North America and some other offices (around the globe) have also sponsored teams. But over the past two years, Echo Fox is the first officially sponsored team in North America. And there are a lot more to come.”

Lien said each of these new deals will encapsulate a multi-year strategy. Asus is taking these partnerships seriously with a lot of due diligence going into who they’ll partner with and how they want to work together.

“We want a team or franchise that covers different types of games,” Lien said. “Under our ROG umbrella, we have a number of product lines like monitors, laptops and mice and a team with broad appeal is important. We really put a lot of emphasis on teams that are taking the right approach with managing players in the eSports community as part of an on-going collaboration with a brand like us.”

Lien said Asus takes a different approach when investing in eSports.

“A lot of the time, when companies look at sponsorships, they look at a way to reach the targeted audience,” Lien said. “We take a step back and look from the players’ point-of-view to explore what they want to play, what hardware they identify with and what they believe will give them a competitive edge. The right hardware can be as simple as the form and fit and feeling comfortable, all the way down to the technology inside that gives players the edge in practice and competition.”

Asus is working with Echo Fox players to help design future hardware. “We want their honest and authentic feedback when it comes to our products,” Lien said. “What’s unique about Asus is that we do a lot of design and engineering from a component level, so those are the types of engagement we’ll be incorporating in future products.”

Echo Fox will also help connect the brand directly with its massive global audience. “We welcome their input on the way we should be interacting with the community,” Lien said. “It’s a two-way street. They know what gamers are looking for. We want them to tell us both the good and bad.”

Social media will play an important role in the long-term marketing strategy of this partnership.

“They have a very loyal following when the messages are delivered in that unique Echo Fox style, which is when the results are best from a marketing perspective,” Lien said. “We give them a lot of flexibility by giving them our objectives and let them help us accomplish that goal without taking away that authentic Echo Fox voice.”

Lien said Asus doesn’t want to come into eSports as an advertiser or sponsor and force feed messages. “Marketing has to come from a context that makes sense and is relevant because that’s how you reach the eSports audience,” Lien said.

One thing that Echo Fox brings to the table is the celebrity of Fox, who has had success in both the sports and entertainment verticals.

“Rick is enthusiastic about gaming and passionate about what he’s doing with Echo Fox,” Lien said. “His ownership, along with other current and past NBA players, helps validate eSports as a real sport. There’s still a lot of misconception out there about gaming and stereotypes, and having Rick out there promoting eSports legitimizes it as a sport and offers best practices in this arena.”

Learn everything you need to know to invest in today’s fastest-growing media channel—Competitive Gaming and eSports—on 2.16.17 in Los Angeles. Go to alistsummit.com for more info.

Square Enix Uncorks ‘Final Fantasy’ 30th Anniversary Celebration In Style

A special event in Tokyo last week was the first step for Square Enix’s year-long celebration of Final Fantasy‘s 30th anniversary. Square Enix CEO, Yosuke Matsuda took the stage alongside Final Fantasy brand manager, Shinji Hashimoto, series composer, Nobuo Uematsu and renowned illustrator, Yoshitaka Amano to symbolically “bring the celebrations to life” by laying their hands on a large, transparent square—causing it to light up.

A special anniversary portal site has been created to keep fans abreast of events and announcements as they take place throughout the year, such as a real-life escape challenge on February 10. This one-day event in Japan will challenge fans to escape a labyrinth from the series called Bahamut in one of five locations—Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Sapporo and Fukuoka.

During the 68th annual Sapporo Snow Festival, an impressive scene from Final Fantasy VII was created featuring characters, Cloud and Sephiroth.

Following its odd but effective Nissin Cup Noodle partnership in Final Fantasy XV, Square Enix has teamed up with the snack food purveyor to release special, Final Fantasy-themed packaging that features bosses from the game. Why not pair your boss-themed noodles with a $950 bottle of Final Fantasy 30th Anniversary wine served in commemorative crystal glasses while you’re at it? You can enjoy your meal with this decorative fork-sword, and that also goes for dessert. Square Enix is selling three different themed cakes—Chocobo (orange and vanilla mousse), Moogle (strawberry and mascarpone mousse), and Cactuar (black chocolate and matcha mousse). Each is priced at 4,500 yen including taxes, which translates roughly to $40.

FF Anniversary Noodles

Square Enix is also hosting an anniversary sale, offering players up to 50 percent off select Final Fantasy titles and editions across PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo, Amazon and the official store through February 13. A miniature Final Fantasy calendar is on the way thanks to a partnership with popular Japanese miniature artist, Tatsuya Tanaka.


During the 30th Anniversary kick-off celebration in Tokyo, fans were treated to new key imagery for the Final Fantasy VII Remake, as well as announcements for DLC coming to Final Fantasy XV.

Technically, anniversary celebrations started last year with the launch of Final Fantasy XV in November. The title was presented to the world with much fanfare, including a special Final Fantasy XV IGN Premiere event in London. The exclusive gathering featured life-sized creature statues, game demos and even a potion-making station.

Although the campaign was activated around the launch of Final Fantasy XV, Square Enix celebrated the entire history of the franchise with #FFLegacies—inviting fans to describe how the franchise impacted their lives. “By having fans share their personal experience,” Square Enix said on the campaign website, “it serves as a reminder that much like how each Final Fantasy has a completely different story, world and characters, we all bring distinctive and new perspectives to the legacy that is Final Fantasy.”