Wendy’s Continues Quest To Attract Gamers, Becomes First Sponsor Of GIPHY Digital Arcade

Wendy’s launched three branded video games on Giphy’s new digital arcade, “GIPHY Arcade,” making it the first sponsor of the shareable micro-game platform. The branded games, which appear in a section called “Wendy’s World” on the arcade landing page, are nods to arcade favorites such as “Space Invaders” and “Breakout.”

Users can add creative touches to Wendy’s games in the arcade’s “REMIX” section, with the option of adding stickers and mixing and matching characters and music. On the arcade’s desktop version, players can choose from over 30 backgrounds and 20 different songs. Comparatively, the mobile version of the arcade creates a game based on a list of questions that users must answer. Integrated with Snapchat and Instagram, the GIPHY microgames can be shared with friends in messages and social media posts. Games from Wendy’s and NASA are among the first to be featured on the arcade’s home page.

The arcade also features premade games, formats of which are reminiscent of games of the past. Some games that users can play straight away include “Frankenstein Lives,” Big Mouth-inspired “Avoid Lola” and “Galactic Glutton.”

Wendy’s has seamlessly inserted itself into the gaming world through a variety of activations targeted towards gamers. With over 2.5 billion gamers across the world and mobile gaming growing 10.2 percent year-on-year to $68.5 billion, Wendy’s is playing its cards right. Earlier this year, the brand live-steamed its digital avatar on Twitch to promote a Baconfest initiative. Prior to that, Wendy’s launched a Twitch campaign called “Keeping Fortnite Fresh,” which led to a 119 percent increase in mentions of Wendy’s across its social media platforms. More recently, the brand introduced a Wendy’s-themed table-top role-playing game called “Feast of Legends,” available for free in PDF form online.

Warner Bros., Pinterest Partner On 360-Degree Campaign For ‘IT: Chapter Two’

Warner Bros. Entertainment partnered with Pinterest to launch a 360-degree experiential campaign for the launch of its horror movie IT: Chapter Two, released on September 6. The first of its kind for both companies, the campaign brought to life IT’s twisted funhouse at a Hollywood location that was open from August 15 to September 8. Free reservations to visit the funhouse, called “The IT Experience: Chapter Two,” booked up in minutes but guests were also able to gain entry via a stand-by line. 

For those who couldn’t experience the Los Angeles funhouse, Warner Bros. created a custom 360 scan in partnership with Pinterest and Matterport. The scan gave fans a glimpse of the real funhouse experience via a series of custom angles and clickable hotspots to explore all angles, from desktop and mobile. The digital experience features audio and immersing pinners who appear as though they’re actually standing in the town of Derry, where the movie takes place.

To access the 360 scan, Pinterest created a promoted video pin which pinners can tap from their feed and swipe up to experience the funhouse, with the added option of sharing it with friends.

The “IT Chapter Two Art Show,” an exclusive exhibition of fan art in Los Angeles, featured another campaign element to increase discovery. Outside the exhibition, Warner Bros. hung movie posters that included Pincodes that, when scanned, took gallery visitors to Pinterest boards containing digital versions of the art and behind-the-scenes videos of behind-the-scenes videos of the art making process.

Given that entertainment is one of Pinterest’s fastest-growing categories, it’s likely that Warner Bros. wanted to capture the attention of the platform’s 22 million users who engage specifically with horror movies. Currently, Pinterest has more than 11 million boards—like “Movies to see—”dedicated to movies. After seeing entertainment ads on Pinterest, 70 percent of Pinterest users took action by watching a new show or attending a movie, and two-thirds have discovered a new movie or show on Pinterest. The platform as a whole reaches 42 percent of people who saw a movie in theaters in the last six months and 56 percent of people who use streaming services.

Unexpected Brands Celebrate National Video Game Day With Tributes And Creativity

September 12 is National Video Game Day in the US, inspiring brands to celebrate with their audiences. Naturally, all the major players took advantage of the internet holiday to remind consumers of offerings and brand legacy. A few non-endemic brands joined in the fun too, using a mutual love of gaming to raise awareness or simply show solidarity with fans.

Arby’s: Choose Your Weapon

Arby’s has made a reputation on social media for its artistic prowess with cardboard food packaging. For Video Game Day, the restaurant covered an arcade gamepad with Arby’s branded cardboard and recreated weapons from various game franchises including Chun Li’s wrist spikes (Street Fighter), Lara Croft’s ice climbing axe (Tomb Raider), Sora’s Keyblade (Kingdom Hearts) and Ezio’s knife gauntlet (Assassin’s Creed).

Cartoon Network: Select Your Player

Cartoon Network created an 8-bit video game “screenshot” that allowed fans to imagine what a fighting game would be like using the brand’s characters. Audiences responded with their ideal “fighters” from shows like Steven Universe, Mao Mao, Teen Titans Go!, The Powerpuff Girls, Adventure Time and more, although several pointed out the absence of OK K.O. Let’s be Heroes!, a cartoon based in a world heavily inspired by video games.

Red Bull: Fruit Ninja Parody

Okay, Krav Maga isn’t Ninjitsu, but technically, neither is slicing fruit with a katana. Red Bull, ever-present in the video game scene, posted a video of a man’s impressive Krav Maga skills superimposed with graphics from the popular game Fruit Ninja.

The brand immediately made fun of itself for capitalizing on the internet holiday, linking to the Reddit thread “fellow kids,” so named after a meme of Steve Bushimi attempting to pass himself off as a teenager.

Honda: 30 Years And Going

Honda wanted to remind gamers that its vehicles have been recreated in video games for over 30 years. The brand is also active in esports, sponsoring Team Liquid and becoming the exclusive automotive partner of the League of Legends Championship Series.

To celebrate its gaming legacy, Honda released a video highlighting vehicles going back to the 1996 Civic Ferio.

Faygo: Cap-Man

Soft drink company Faygo paid tribute to classic arcade games with a parody of Pac-Man called Cap-Man. The image recreated the iconic Pac-Man game board, replacing ghosts and power-ups with Faygo products.

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Internet Holidays: A Marketing Playground

It’s not just you, everyday seems to be a hashtag holiday on social media. That’s because savvy social brands choose their participation wisely—sharing tributes, jokes and promotions that align with its core values and online persona.

Other recent examples include Werther’s life-sized Candyland game board for #CaramelDay and Heinz’s “fruit or vegetable” debate for National Tomato Day. Other brands have taken to creating their own internet holidays such as Netflix’s #StrangerThingsDay and Pabst Blue Ribbon’s National Mural Day.

Sky Television Campaign Transforms Bus Shelters Into Virtual Sports Arenas

New Zealand-operated Sky Television Network is transforming bus shelters across Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch into immersive mini sports arenas to give sports fans the experience of a front row stadium seat on the street.

Nine bus shelters will be designed with a complete panorama wrap and custom seat installations, tailored to each city. Each bus shelter site was hand-selected to ensure high foot traffic and daily traffic visual counts, with a projected 300,000 views across all locations.

Sky’s aim is to promote its sports streaming services in a way that will leave a lasting impression on riders. The television platform’s efforts are in part due to the 50 percent increase it received in streaming customers over the last year leading to 16 percent growth in streaming and commercial revenues in FY2019. Sky TV also recently launched the Sky Sport Now app and Sky Sport News service and introduced 12 high definition channels on Sky Sport. In August, over a million New Zealanders engaged with Sky services when the Bledisloe Cup match aired, including 55,000 on the platform’s streaming services. 

“Taking well-known aspects of our favorite sports and placing them in everyday moments is our way of showing Kiwis that Sky is an indispensable part of any sports lover’s life,” said chief marketing officer for Sky TV, Steve Bayliss. 

The campaign is running now through the end of September.
Sky TV’s large-scale out-of-home (OOH) initiative comes after an Australian ad spend study from oOh!media found that return on investment (ROI) more than doubles when television and OOH are part of the campaign media mix. The data show that campaigns with more than six percent of their media spend in OOH saw a 57 percent ROI while those who spent under only received a 41 percent ROI. To achieve optimum campaign results, a mix of digital and OOH are needed.

Marketer’s Guide To Esports Competitions (Part 2)

Originally published at AW360.

The world of esports competitions is host to a variety of games for different types of players. Some of these games, like League of Legends Dota 2, are immensely popular, and their competitions have documentaries made about them for TBS or Netflix. For people even vaguely aware of esports competitions, these games immediately come to mind.

But like kingdoms, game franchises rise and fall. Most games decline in popularity or take time to grow, building infrastructure and supporting an ever-expanding community of players.

Part one examined some of the kings of the esports industry. This article, on the other hand, will look at some other games which, while popular, are still finding their places as competitive esports.

What To Consider Before Partnering

In part one, we looked at five key factors in making sponsorship decisions, which were simplified to infrastructureformatsaudienceaccessibility, and brand fit. For a more in-depth look into these, see part one in this article series.

To summarize the points in that article, before a brand decides to sponsor a game competition, the brand should consider:

  1. Infrastructure: How well-supported and established the competition and game franchise are. Can the organizers provide in-depth, reliable, and accurate data on the performance of and audience for their competitions? Can they support large audiences?
  2. Formats: What advertising opportunities do brands have? How can brands best advertise to audiences without disrupting viewing experiences?
  3. Audience: Who’s watching events? What is a brand’s target audience? Finding common ground between these two audiences while targeting the right streaming platforms is key. Alternatively, brands can consider live audiences, if applicable.
  4. Accessibility: Can events appeal to casual viewers or people who know next to nothing about the games?
  5. Brand Fit: Does the sponsorship align with a brand’s positioning? Can a brand offer a product to esports viewers that will resonate with them?

With that overview out of the way, here are some esports competitions that are developing and becoming more mainstream.

Growing Leagues And Tournaments

Fortnite

Fortnite: Battle Royale might have made waves with its 2017 debut, rapidly becoming a phenomenon, but its position in competitive esports is still fairly new.

Epic earlier announced that it would be directing $100 million toward competitive esports, and so far, this money has been put into a variety of competitions, with 2019’s World Cup distributing a total $30 million prize pool, the Summer Skirmish Series awarding a total $8 million prize pool, and the Fall Skirmish Series awarding a $10 million total prize pool.

These can all be considered initial efforts in developing a larger league infrastructure, something which Epic seems to still be fleshing out. Epic only this March added the Arena mode, which allows players to compete against each other for placement in official events.

However, Epic and Fortnite have made big strides forward in their advancement of esports. The former commissioner of the Overwatch League, Nate Nanzer, recently left his position to oversee Fortnite esports. Fortnite’s new Champions Series looks like another stride forward, though details on that have yet to emerge.

Rocket League Championship Series (RLCS)

The esports infrastructure for Rocket League, another massively popular game from the past five years, is also still developing.

The Rocket League Championship Series began in 2016 as a collaboration between Psyonix and Twitch. At first, Twitch gained exclusive broadcasting rights of Rocket League competitive events while aiding in the growth of Rocket League’s competitive infrastructure and community.

This collaboration has since dissolved, however, with Psyonix moving its esports management in-house. Although Twitch still managed sponsorships and ad sales for Rocket League at first, Psyonix made a deal with Turner Sports’s ELEAGUE early this year, with ELEAGUE now handling both advertising and sponsorships, among other things.

Following that, Epic Games acquired Rocket League and Psyonix. Epic has been pretty quiet following the acquisition, with Rocket League’s season 7 championship series taking place in late June, but more developments are sure to come.

Rainbow Six Pro League

Rainbow Six: Siege is an unusual story in the esports industry, and the existence of a Rainbow Six Pro League at all is perhaps a testament to Ubisoft’s tenacity, given the cancellation of the previous installment. Rainbow Six: Siege is another addition in the more-than-a-dozen game franchise, Rainbow Six, which began with Tom Clancy’s novel in 1998. What’s even more unusual is that Siege was envisioned as the reboot to the franchise, yet even following awards and praise quickly lost steam.

Only when Siege responded to its strongest criticism–an overall lack of content in its initial release–did it pick itself up and gain a strong following. Almost three years after its release, Rainbow Six: Siege continues to add content for players, keeping itself fresh and relevant.

Rainbow Six’s Pro League began in 2017, hosted by ESL in association with Ubisoft. The league includes four region divisions, representing Europe, North America, Latin America and Asia-Pacific. Initially divided into four seasons per year, the Pro League shifted to two seasons of six months each starting in 2018. Following those two seasons, players compete in the Six Invitational, Rainbow Six’s most prestigious tournament.

In 2018, Ubisoft announced the Rainbow Six Pilot Program, a partnership program which would give select teams a cut of the revenue from sales of in-game cosmetics. The goal is to make competition more sustainable for players.

Evolution Championship Series (Evo)

The Evolution Championship Series stands out from other tournaments in many ways. For one, Evo isn’t dedicated to one game franchise, instead, including a variety of competitive fighting games. Evo also predates the major esports boom of the last decade, first appearing in 1996, well before Twitch or YouTube came on the scene. Finally, Evo is not an event players qualify for–it’s completely open to the public, taking place annually in the Las Vegas and drawing in players from around the world. Evo is considered the largest and most prestigious fighting game tournament in the world.

Each player pays a $10 entry fee, with players competing in an array of different fighting game tournaments. The entry fees then together form the prize pool, with first place receiving half of the total money, and seven more players receiving a proportionate amount based on their placement.

Evo 2019 featured Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Street Fighter V Arcade Edition, Tekken 7, Mortal Kombat 11, Soulcalibur VI, Dragon Ball FighterZ, BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle, Samurai Shodown and Under Night In-Birth Exe: Late[st]It drew in more than 9000 entrants, over 3500 of which entered to play Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. This made Evo 2019 the largest Super Smash Bros. competitive event of all time.

Although data has not been released for Evo 2019, Evo 2018 generated 5.2 million hours of Twitch and YouTube viewership, an increase of more than 24 percent from its previous year.

Looking Ahead

Esports competitions represent an array of unique and diverse opportunities for brands. While many of these competitions are still building and establishing themselves, even different types of competitions like Evo, which aren’t exclusive and don’t offer the same opportunities as some of the major competitions covered in the last article, can still be boons to brands.

For one, a growing competition might offer a trust or intimacy that a larger competitive event might not, allowing brands a closer connection to audiences. Some competitive events, like Evo, also offer a rare niche in the esports industry, striking a chord with casual audiences and retro fans, even if they don’t offer the same kinds of immediate returns.

Most of these events show positive trends for the esports industry however, as more competitive events and game franchises seek to encourage competitive play by offering larger prize pools, as well as through other incentives such as Rainbow Six’s Pilot Program. By turning even microtransactions into net positives, giving the money back to competitive players and communities, companies have shown a degree of ingenuity, even turning that element into something which might not cause controversy at the same scale.

Ultimately though, as before, brands should consider what benefits their brand strategies and image while helping their bottom line. Gamers are savvy audiences, and while marketing to them can often be challenging, they know how to follow brands in ways that other demographics might not, engaging online and through social media. What matters is having an actionable product that translates to esports audiences.

With part one covering some of the most prolific competitions in the esports space, and part two covering competitions still establishing themselves or taking a different approach, part three will examine some of the newest competitions in the esports industry.

(This article originally appeared on Simplepixel)

Twitch Expands Traditional Sports Partnership With Immersive Lounge In Raiders’ Allegiant Stadium

Twitch announced it’s teaming up with the Raiders as a founding partner to launch Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, scheduled to be completed in 2020. The new home of Raider Nation, Allegiant Stadium will feature a Twitch-branded lounge that incorporates Twitch’s live streaming capabilities and active community into a variety of experiential events. 

The lounge will be replete with immersive features for visitors including streamer stations and Twitch viewing screens. Future Twitch activations will also take place at the Twitch lounge and will include top-billed sporting events, esports competitions and concerts.

The partnership is part of the video streaming platform’s long-term vision for multiplayer and esports entertainment. In 2016, Twitch became the official sponsor sales representative of professional esports teams Cloud9 and Team SoloMid. The partnership gives the brands exclusive access to large advertising inventory available on Twitch. 

“Esports fans make up an enormous audience that’s deeply desirable to brands–and extremely difficult to reach through traditional advertising channels. Leveraging our sales expertise to ensure that non-gaming brands enter the space in a meaningful way is a decisive first step toward that necessity,” Twitch’s vice president and commercial director for esports, Kristen Salvatore, previously told AList.

In 2018, G2 esports signed a multi-year exclusive partnership with Twitch that made it so Twitch is the only live-streaming platform to cover all G2 esports teams and players. 

Twitch was recently named the exclusive streaming partner of the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL). Beginning October 5, for the next three years, Twitch will stream the league’s regular season, Isobel Cup Playoff and special event games. c players and the league will split revenue from the agreement 50/50.

Game Advertising On Instagram: The Costly, The Effective And The Free

Instagram and video games have a lot in common, from visual-seeking audiences to target age groups. Many games advertised on Instagram have yielded positive results thanks to a variety of engagement options, although rising cost-per-click (CPC) prices may inspire a more organic approach.

According to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), the average US gamer is 33 years old. Luckily for game marketers, it’s a great match. The largest group of US Instagram users is between the ages of 25-34, per eMarketer.

Cost Vs. Reward of Games Advertised on Instagram

Instagram is part of the Facebook Audience Network, so prices are subject to demand. To give you a general benchmark, however, AdStage reports median CPC for Instagram Stories placement to be $0.76, cost per mille (CPM) $3.96 and a click-through rate (CTR) of 0.54 percent in Q2 2019.

Feed ads appear to perform better, according to AdStage, with a CTR of 0.88 percent. CPC is lower, as well, at a median of $0.67. The trade-off is a higher CPM at $6.09.

Cost-per-install prices have lowered for iOS over the past few years when compared to 2015, although it increased for Amazon. The most recent US cost-per-install prices according to Chartboost are:

  • iOS Average: $1.44 ($2.23 in 2015)
  • Amazon Average: $2.09 ($1.78 in 2015)
  • Google Play Average: $1.33

Note: Chartboost figures in 2015 were broken down by iOS platform and did not include Google Play.

Case Studies

Mobile game developer Huuuge Games used Instagram Stories to boost awareness for its Huuuge Casino app, according to a case study published on Instagram Business. The developer launched full-screen Instagram Stories featuring slot machine gameplay with a call-to-action to “Play Game.”

Huuuge Games reports that the campaign yielded a 61 percent higher return on ad spend at a 24 percent lower cost per acquisition. In addition, the developer saw a 91 percent increase in payers’ rate for the free-to-play (F2P) game, indicating a motivation to purchase optional add-ons.

If awareness is your primary game marketing objective, it’s wise not to forget earned media value. King partnered with South Korean pop group BlackPink to promote Candy Crush Friends with a series of owned, organic posts on Instagram. 

In one segment, BlackPink members Lisa and Jisoo attempted to imitate dance moves as performed by Candy Crush Friends animated characters. The August 27 video has reached 219,254 views as of this posting, which is valued at roughly $24,178 in earned media value according to a.Network’s Earned Media Value Index (a.EMVI).

Instagram For Indie Games

Social media marketing isn’t just for AAA game titles—in fact, many independent, aka indie, game studios find tangible engagement around their projects on Instagram.

Sky: Children of Light is an upcoming mobile RPG title from Thatgamecompany that has nurtured an audience on Instagram. The developer’s main strategy has been to invite audiences to contribute creative content via fan art, music, etc. This gives future players a reason to share their inspiration and feel connected with Sky’s creators.

Another tactic used by game developers and publishers of all sizes is to create one large image using tiled posts. This encourages fans to engage with each of the images separately, increasing curiosity and engagement, such as this post on CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077 profile, which garnered a combined total of over 60,000 views in the span of just eight hours. 

Visual Platform, Visual Product

“Being image-based, Instagram is arguably the best platform for branding,” freelance game marketer Bee Wakefield told developers at the GamesIndustry.biz Career Fair in April. “With clever color use you can match your style and theme to your game and keep it consistent throughout campaigns.”

With a plethora of new features and ecommerce integrations being implemented on Instagram, it could be time for game developers of all sizes to take another look at advertising options on Instagram.

How Brands Use New York Fashion Week 2019 To Reach Consumers On And Off The Runway

It’s that time of year when the glamorous madness of fashion weeks around the world begin. The eyes of the press, influencers and consumers will be locked on the runways, but brands certainly try their best to steal some of the star-studded spotlight. From food companies to YouTube, who launched a long-overdue Fashion vertical right before FWNY 2019 opened today, it seems, everybody wants to be part of the sparkling Fashion Week hype.  

AList provides a glimpse into how fashion and non-fashion marketers are using the event to reach opinion-shapers worldwide.

Schick Hosts “The Baldest Party Ever”

Personal Care brand Schick proves that style comes in all shapes and celebrates baldness with the Schick Xtreme line of disposable razors. At FWNY, Schick will host “The Baldest Party Ever” on Friday, September 13. 

Per the company, the official BIP (Bald Important People) party will feature red-carpet head shave stations, DJs spinning bald mega-mixes, along with other extreme experiences. 

To attend, consumers can join BIP club and RSVP for the “Baldest Party Ever” at BaldImportantPeople.com, where they can also scan their head through Schick Xtreme’s proprietary Bald Detection Technology.

Amazon Brings Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty Lingerie Show To Subscribers’ Homes  

Amazon Prime Video subscribers will be given an exclusive opportunity to stream the Fall/Winter 2019 collection of the second annual Savage X Fenty show debuting during this year’s New York Fashion Week. The brand’s fans from over 200 countries will be able to watch the show on Sept. 20 with a pleasant bonus–a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the show, consisting of performances from some of the hottest acts in music, feature models, actors and dancers wearing styles from the collection. 

Cheetos Opens House Of Flamin’ Haute

Cheetos announced it will open the doors to its House of Flamin’ Haute during FWNY 2019. 

Lucky house guests can expect to witness the brand’s first runway show, curated by fashion influencers and stylists @luanna, @Hungry Hipsters, @thenavarose and @stylistjbolin, and featured a signature look designed by costume designer Ami Goodheart. There’s also a special style bar. 

As a part of the fashionable campaign, Cheetos’ fans were asked to share their own “looking like a snack” look using the brand’s #CheetosFlaminHaute hashtag on Instagram. 

SweeTARTS Collabs With Designer To Celebrate The Freedom To “Be Both” 

Another food brand, SweeTARTS, partnered with Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) designer Christian Siriano on SweeTARTS “Be Both” campaign. 

Within the initiative, Siriano designed a custom couture look inspired by the brand, which celebrates the freedom to be “more than one thing.”

“It’s impressive to see a candy brand really think about the world today, and want to be as inclusive and diverse as our society is becoming. This project was such a great fit for me because this is how I design and live my life every day! Anyone can be anything, and even candy can be more than one thing,” Siriano said in a press release, announcing the collaboration.

The ensemble will make its public debut at Siriano’s runway show during the upcoming New York Fashion Week, worn by a special celebrity guest who will be seated front row.

Cha Cha Matcha Drinks Chain Throws “Cha Cha Block” Party 

The matcha café Cha Cha Matcha invites FWNY 2019 goers to its block, offering a chill zone for chatting, lounging and napping, a lemonade stand stocked with new iced teas, matcha-flavored cotton candy and limited-edition merchandise and matcha giveaways. 

“Keep it PG, this is a sidewalk,” the company joked in an Instagram post about the event. 

GENIFER M Jewelry Premiers Cannabis Collection

Designer, Korto Momolu, who is famous for her dashing designs on Project Runway, will collaborate with Women Grow and GENIFER M Jewelry to deliver high fashion designs that embody the power and influence of women in the cannabis movement on September 7th at Fashion Week New York. 

The collection will feature hemp-based fabrics, as well as GENIFER M Jewelry pieces.  

UNIQLO Offers An Immersive Experience

UNIQLO literally invites guests inside LifeWear magazine at its immersive experience during NYFW 2019. UNIQLO’s LifeWear lounge will reflect the pages of the magazine’s first issue: from styling stories to interviews with Roger Federer and its Fall/Winter 2019 collection. The exhibit goers will be able to relax and, of course, satisfy their Instagram needs. 

UNIQLO will also host a global exhibition during Fashion Week London from September 17 to 22.

Fresh Produce To Sponsor TheCURVYcon 

The women’s apparel brand focused on body-positivity, Fresh Produce, will sponsor theCURVYcon 2019. The three-day event will be held during New York Fashion Week 2019 with the goal to “bring the plus size community into one space to chat curvy, shop curvy and embrace curvy.”

Cindy Keizman, chief merchandising and operations officer at Fresh Produce said in a press release: “We have always been a brand that embraces women from all walks of life and we’re sincerely looking forward to continuing to do so with our sponsorship of theCURVYcon. The show has set the gold standard for supporting body positivity and inclusivity in the world of fashion, and we’re just so excited to be a part of it.”

Coach Brings Back Nostalgia

This year at FWNY, Coach will open a pop-up called “The Coach Originals” inside its Madison Avenue boutique. The pop-up concept revolves around the brand’s heritage with a bag-focused collection that dives into the designer house’s archive. 

Coach’s creative director Stuart Vevers said about the initiative: “It felt natural to choose the most iconic styles from the sixties and seventies, like ‘The Duffle,’ ‘The Courier’ and ‘The Dinky.’ But we also sourced some rare Coach pieces, like ‘The Swinger Frame Bag.'” 

Other notable pop ups include Zadig & Voltaire NBA collection; Toni Garrn’s “Supermodel Flea Market,” a Glenlivet “drop shop” featuring Prabal Gurung and Alexis Bittar’s VW golden pickup parked at the William Vale.

Unexpected Brand Partnerships Touch Down For NFL’s 100th Season

The National Football League’s centennial season just touched down and with it a bevy of activations from brands new and returning are rolling out. This year, 32 sponsors and licensees are launching experiential activations and social initiatives including Pizza Hut, Oakley, Roc Nation and Bud Light. Ahead we’re spotlighting the largest brand partnerships of the football season so far.

Roc Nation

A newcomer to the NFL brand partner roster is Roc Nation, the Live Nation-owned music label that rapper Jay Z is signed to. The NFL announced a long-term partnership with Roc Nation before the start of the season, naming it the league’s official “live music entertainment strategists.” Roc Nation will consult on artist selections for NFL tentpole performances, including the Super Bowl, and help create and distribute music across music streaming services for a variety of initiatives including a potential live visual album.

Roc Nation is also helping the NFL launch a new social enterprise, its Inspire Change apparel line, available later this year. The new phase of the initiative will help fund programs of NFL platform “Inspire Change,” which was created to help players and owners support various education, police-community relations and criminal justice reform initiatives. 

Additionally, the partnership will also produce “Songs of the Season,” a season-long initiative that showcases musicians and their work via NFL promotions and digital streaming platforms worldwide.

Pizza Hut

Back for its second year of NFL sponsorship and the official pizza sponsor replacement for Papa John’s, Pizza Hut has created an interactive collect-and-win game called “Hut Hut Win” that runs all year and gives fans the chance to win over 10 million instant prizes including merchandise, trips to the Super Bowl, Draft Weekend tickets and more. To enter, fans must spend five dollars at Pizza Hut then head to the site to register for the game. The more virtual game pieces fans earn—a total of 32, the number of NFL teams—the higher their chances are for scoring grand prizes. Pizza Hut is engaging consumers by asking them to vote via the brand’s Twitter poll on one of three NFL-related prizes, which will be up for grabs in the Hut Hut Win sweepstakes.

“The first year of the partnership helped us increase awareness and reach more fans across the country, which was a big priority for us. This season, we’re making our partnership with the NFL work harder for the everyday fan, bringing them closer to the game as possible. We’re looking forward to continuing the momentum we started last year by bringing this partnership to life and delivering unforgettable, unexpected fan experiences all season long,” Marianne Radley, chief brand officer, Pizza Hut, told AList.

Additional immersive prizes include making pizzas with Pizza Hut NFL player partners such as making pizzas with Juju Smith-Schuster at Pizza Hut global headquarters, unlocking an escape room with Tyler Lockett and having a ping pong pizza party with Pizza Hut’s newest brand ambassador, Aaron Donald.

Pizza Hut will also highlight its player partners in four new television spots airing this season.

Oakley

The most unexpected activation of the football season has to be Oakley’s four-year partnership as the NFL’s official on-field partner and licensee. Oakley will provide all 32 teams with its shields and eyewear, and for the first time in history, players will have the option of wearing Prizm Clear shields, which were engineered to provide more color, contrast and clarity for detail recognition on the field. The product is highlighted in a 60-second video spot Oakley created from the point of view of players during a football game. Oakley has produced football shields for helmet for more than 20 years.

To celebrate the partnership, Oakley hosted an event at Times Square where the center’s giant billboards went pitchblack before displaying a video spot showing New York Giants players followed by the announcement that Oakley is now a partner of the Giants.

Fans can also rep their favorite teams with the new customizable NFL eyewear collection from Oakley, available for all teams in two men’s styles and seven teams in one women’s style.

“There is obviously a tech and player safety component to the deal which makes for great storytelling, and Oakley has made investments in athletes and teams before as that is their sweet spot. What the ROI on the consumer side will be is in the future; they inserted themselves into a narrative on player health and innovation which, in addition to their logo, will drive great awareness,” sports and entertainment marketing consultant Joe Favorito told AList.

Bud Light

Bud Light is teaming up with the Cleveland Browns football team to open a pop-up store in Cleveland called “B.L. & Brown’s Appliance Superstore” that sells Bud Light Victory Fridges. The fridges created a local pandemonium last year when Bud Light installed them in bars around Cleveland. Now the company is selling a limited number of various-sized fridges, ranging from $200-$600, on September 3 and 4 from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. 

WWE pro wrestler and Browns fan, The Miz will star as the pitchman in an infomercial about the appliance pop-up that began airing on Cleveland television August 30.

Dunkin’

Longtime partner of the New England Patriots, Dunkin’ is giving DD Perks Members added incentives for using a Dunkin’ card or mobile ordering. On the home opener night, September 8, members will receive six times the points, or 30 points per dollar spent—as opposed to five—on any hot or iced coffee. Through the 2019 season, DD Perks Members will also earn twice on any size hot or iced coffee when paying via Dunkin’ card or mobile app ordering. The promotion will be valid at participating Dunkin’ locations in the Northeast. 

Anheuser-Busch InBev

The NFL recently adopted new guidelines on alcohol sponsorships that allow beer brands who partner with teams to use images of players to advertise their products. That includes NFL beer sponsor Bud Light and also extends to brands who have existing team relationships or wish to establish one. The updated policy could be one reason why craft breweries owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev have created branded beers with teams this season such as the Seattle Seahawks, Los Angeles Rams, Denver Broncos and others. Still, brands are barred from using the likeness of active players for these beers.

Pepsi

To launch its 17th consecutive sponsorship of the NFL, Pepsi launched a campaign called “Always Be Celebrating.” Activations include a national television ad that features dynamic animation elements and touchdown celebrations, and the introduction of the “Pepsi Cause for Celebration” program. For every touchdown, Pepsi will donate funds equivalent to 100 meals to the team’s local United Way Worldwide.

Jersey Mike’s Subs

Now through November, Jersey Mike’s is going on a 14-week college tailgate tour across the country with a branded trailer placed in high traffic locations on college campuses. Fans can enjoy a free sub sample when they download and show the updated Jersey Mike’s app or sign up for the newly launched MyMike’s rewards program. The pop-up tailgate party will feature an outdoor lounge area where guests can play lawn games, enter giveaways and use the custom Snapchat geofilter.  At each event, tailgaters can enter to win four tickets to a football game scheduled for 2020 including airfare for the winner and up to three guests.

“Because of the unique 18 game structure of the NFL, brands that invest are usually about big spend, big engagement. It’s not a place on a national level for small budgets with the expectation of a big ROI. It is much more structured in terms of assets and access than the other big five leagues in North America, but if you can find the niche, and the narrative that makes sense to cut through the clutter, the voraciousness of the fan base can be a big win,” Favorito added.

A Marketer’s Guide To Esports Competitions

Originally published at AW360.

Competition is a prominent element in both the worlds of marketing and esports. For an esports player as well as for a brand, the ability to find and pursue opportunities is what determines success.

In marketing, the biggest opportunities often involve major events, and in esports marketing specifically, these are tournaments or leagues–major competitions where esports players test their mettle against some of the best players in the world.

This is where esports players are tested. Marketers, on the other hand, are tested in formulating business strategies based on careful research.

Esports leagues and competitions appeal to a wide variety of gamers, which means a vast demographic marketers can pull from. This three-part article will look at the largest and most relevant competitive opportunities in esports and how to choose which leagues to sponsor.

What to Consider Before Partnering

Choosing a competitive event to sponsor is a deliberate process. Among other factors, a company should consider the size, popularity and age of the event; how the event is broadcasted or organized; the audience demographics; how accessible the event is to casual viewers; and how well the event aligns with the brand’s image and goals.

Respectively, these considerations can be simplified to infrastructureformatsaudienceaccessibility and brand fit.

Infrastructure

Being such a new industry, esports often lacks infrastructure – from reliable, lasting audiences, to resources to support their growth. For a competitive event to succeed, not only does the game it’s built around need to attract a crowd, that game needs to keep growing its audience.

An event won’t succeed if the game it’s built around loses its audience (or has a small audience to begin with). The Heroes of the Storm and H1Z1 pro leagues both fell through in 2018, with Heroes unable to attract a substantial audience and H1Z1unable to pay its players.

Beyond that, the Internet has created a globally connected esports community, but that often results in statistics that are displaced from regional or even national data. A game might be enormously popular in South Korea or China, but for a brand who can only target the US, that means very little.

That’s why it’s important to consider audience trends and regional data. It’s crucial for brands to consider games and competitions that have staying power, and audiences within their reach.

Brands should also keep in mind how competitions are promoting themselves to drive viewership.

Formats

Brands should also consider how viewers will watch a competitive event, or how the event is formatted. To make sound advertising decisions, it’s important to be aware of how an event is structured. In that way, a brand can consider every advertising opportunity.

The majority of esports competitions are hosted online but move to physical venues during the playoffs and finals. A brand might want to consider audiences who will watch online, as well as audiences who will buy tickets to see the event live. Common sponsorship assets include in-broadcast overlays, branded content segments (during live competitions), in-venue advertising, social content with integrated league assets, game equipment and apparel.

The goal is creating experiences for audiences that aren’t disruptive and increase brand awareness in positive and relatable ways.

Audience

Along similar lines, a brand should consider how an event is streamed to audiences. Events that stream exclusively through certain platforms are more likely to miss essential viewership.

When ESL terminated its exclusive broadcast deal with Facebook, and FACEIT announced it would stop broadcasting exclusively through Youtube, these organizers were motivated by audience growth. They saw the importance of reaching audiences across as many platforms as possible.

Additionally, when considering audience metrics, it’s important for brands to look at data that can be compared tangibly to digital and television. While there is definite potential in the esports industry, it’s still relatively new, and a lot of information might be exaggerated or inflated. Metrics such as “total viewers” and “max concurrent viewers–”metrics which have been widely considered in the past–might seem comprehensive enough, but they often fail to account for audience engagement and brand exposure.

Some competitive events have started partnering with Nielsen, to give brands more comprehensive data. This should allow brands to make more informed sponsorship decisions.

Accessibility

Many esports titles, such as League of Legends or Starcraft, don’t translate to real world sports or activities. They have their own internal mechanics that are often difficult for average viewers to understand. This means that for the uninitiated, these games may be too much trouble to follow.

This isn’t necessarily a concern right now, as esports audiences are mostly comprised of dedicated fans, who have no trouble following what’s happening on-screen. In the future though, brands and competitions may want to expand their reach.

Harder-to-understand esports could alienate future viewers. Brands interested in a bigger picture might consider less abstract games, where the objectives and tactics are easily understood by even unfamiliar viewers.

Barring that, brands should research whether competitions or esports leagues plan to consider more casual viewers. In 2018, Riot games and ELEAGUE broadcast a 1-hour-intro to League of Legends on TBS, discussing some of the mechanics and history of the game. ELEAGUE offered a similar program for Counter Strike: Global Offensive. These “101” segments may be a viable way for games and competitions to grow their audience.

Brand Fit

In the long-term, brand image is often much more meaningful than brand exposure. To gain and keep an audience, a brand should always consider what it’s saying to consumers and how it’s saying it, and esports marketing is no exception.

Which game or competition a brand associates with can say a lot to consumers, whether positively or negatively. Awareness of the audience and history, both of game franchises and competitive events, is essential. Many brands will also want to consider gameplay that is brand safe–as removed from controversy as possible.

That’s not to neglect the importance of brand strategy. A competitive event might tie in well with a brand’s image, but if audiences have to go out of their way to support the brand, the sponsorship is much less effective. Non-endemic brands should consider how to seamlessly (but not disruptively) integrate themselves into the event, to make consumer response as efficient as possible.

A strong brand strategy connects with event audiences both online and offline.

With all these elements in mind, here are some brief overviews of some of the most established esports leagues and what makes them unique.

Established Leagues and Tournaments

1. League of Legends Championship Series (LCS)

Through its championship events, League of Legends has become a premiere name in esports, and the LCS (US specific tournament) is the highest tier competitive League of Legends has to offer.

The LCS is organized by Riot Games, the company responsible for League, and boasts ten franchise teams that compete in the US. The LCS annual season is split between spring and summer, culminating in the World Championship, which starts in October.

What makes it unique: While League of Legends is certainly not the most popular competitive esport in the US or North America, it has attained globally iconic status. Riot operates fourteen regional leagues globally, of which there are more than 100 teams.

Riot’s recent partnership with Nielsen, to deliver more comprehensive numbers to marketers, makes the LCS an even more enticing prospect.

2. Overwatch League

The Overwatch League is Blizzard’s ambitious attempt to bring esports to the mainstream. Modeling itself off of real-world sports leagues like the NFL and the NBA, OWL created franchise teams tied to major cities around the world.

Blizzard’s goal is to make global inroads, creating a global network of stadiums. They would have OWL travel the world between home and away locations, further mirroring

What makes it unique: Aside from the unique structure of OWL among esports, which should be realized in 2020, Activision Blizzard is another Nielsen partner.

Overwatch is also quite popular in the US.

3. DOTA Pro Circuit

DOTA 2 has a lot in common with League of Legends. Both owe their existence to a Warcraft III mod, Defense of the Ancients; both have adopted a free-to-play model; and both have become iconic esports internationally.

The DOTA Pro Circuit includes five Major tournaments and five Minor tournaments, concluding in a final annual tournament called The International. The difference between a Major and a Minor tournament is that a Major is significantly more likely to qualify a player for the International, while also offering a larger prize pool.

What makes it unique: The International’s prize pool is crowdfunded, pulled partly from the sale of battle passes in DOTA 2. Battle passes give players access to virtual goods, which provide cosmetic rewards.

Because of this, the 2019 International will have the largest prize pool of any esports event ever, at $30 million.

4. CS:GO Major Circuit

A first-person shooter placing players in the roles of either counter-terrorists or terrorists, Counter Strike: Global Offensive is the latest installment in the popular Counter-Strike franchise. Although played worldwide, CS:GO is arguably most popular in the US. In the US, CS:GO outranks all other esports for sheer number of teams.

Also organized by Valve, the CS:GO championships are similarly formatted into a circuit of Major and Minor tournaments. However, CS:GO does not have its own version of the International. Tournaments are held internationally.

What makes it unique: CS:GO is one of the more “American” esports, so if brands want to orient themselves around an American identity, sponsoring the CS:GO major circuit is something to consider. However, brand safety is a concern. CS:GO is graphically violent, and violence is its core focus. Brands have to be wary of this going into any conversation.

5. Hearthstone Masters

Having experienced a slight decline since its massive Twitch popularity of several years ago–no longer the trend it used to be –Hearthstone is a digital card game set in the Warcraft universe. Hearthstone nevertheless maintains a strong audience and competitive scene.

This year, Blizzard announced the Hearthstone Masters, its attempt to make the Hearthstone esports scene more “sustainable, entertaining, and accessible” for players. The new system is divided into Masters Qualifiers, a Masters Tour and the Grandmasters. The Masters Tour consists of select marquee live events and moves players around the world, starting in Las Vegas, moving to Seoul, and then concluding in Bucharest.

What makes it unique: Like OWL, the Hearthstone Masters is organized by Blizzard, a company making strong strides in the esports industry, aiming to legitimize it alongside other sports.

As far as brand safe esports, Hearthstone and other online card games are probably among the best, given that controversy is really not present in the gameplay itself.

Looking Ahead

With a successful brand strategy, sponsoring an established league, like those listed above, offers brands a large audience, more stability, and a strong community. However, a smaller brands might have difficulty reaching budget minimums with organizers for major competitive events to make a meaningful impact throughout the year.

A good brand strategy involves careful research, specifically regarding accurate and precise metrics with historical precedent and parallels. Considering the future of the esports industry, as well as what fits a brand’s image and product positioning, is vital to long-term success. Due to the novelty of the industry, a lot of figures may be exaggerated, and infrastructure is still developing.

The audiences for esports and competitions are vast, and within each community lies different types of untapped potential. Really connecting with audiences may be challenging, and it’s important to be genuine – to find honest connections between your brand and the audience.

This concludes our look into major esports competitions around the world. We’ve looked into how brands can form careful strategies around esports and make quality long-term decisions, both for themselves and for the health of the esports industry.

Part two will focus on competitions that, while popular, are still developing. Part three will look at newer and other notable esports competitions.

(This article originally appeared on Simplepixel)