A Marketer’s Guide To Esports Competitions

Originally published at AW360 by Angel Mendoza.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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)

Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf And Warner Bros. Open Central Perk In Los Angeles

Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, in partnership with Warner Bros. celebrates the 25th anniversary of Friends by creating an interactive pop-up experience at two Coffee Bean locations in Los Angeles. With the infamous orange couch, the campaign lets the fans quench their thirst and satisfy their Instagram needs, surrounded by the iconic Central Perk decor. 

The pop-ups are taking place in two touristy Los Angeles destinations: West Hollywood and Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, welcoming the guests from 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. daily until August 23. 

At the coffee houses, the pop-up goers are able to sip on the themed seasonal “The Rachel Matcha Latte,” “The Joey Mango Cold Brew Tea,” “The Chandler Caramel Coconut Latte,” “The Ross Classic Flat White,” “The Monica Midnight Mocha Cold Brew” and, the quirkiest of all, “ The Phoebe Cookies & Cream Ice Blended” drink. 

The drinks are also “dressed” in limited-edition, collectible coffee sleeves that feature one of eight Friends quotes. To test their knowledge in the catch phrases from the show, the fans can even take “Who Said It?” quiz

Besides the themed seasonal beverages, Coffee Bean also offers their customers to pick up Central Perk themed coffees and tea for brewing at home. 

“Members of our team are fans of the show Friends, from casual late-night viewers to full-blown fanatics, and we are thrilled to collaborate with Warner Bros. Consumer Products to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the series,” said Darrin Kellaris, vice president of marketing at The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in a press release

Amazon Unites California Businesses On ‘Maisel Day’ To Offer 1959 Prices

Amazon teamed up with local businesses in Santa Monica, California to offer 1959 prices from $40 hotel rooms to gas for 30¢ a gallon. The August 15 activation created awareness for The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel ahead of the 71st Emmy Awards, for which the show received 20 nominations.

Nostalgia marketing is in full swing across a myriad of brands, but instead of reminding millennials of the 90s, Amazon went back much further to 1959—the setting of its award-winning show, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

Maisel Day” invited consumers to “experience 1959 for one marvelous day” at 28 participating businesses, each offering steeply discounted products or services based on the prices of the era. Participating fans enjoyed 51¢ movie tickets, $2 makeovers, Reuben sandwiches for 59¢ and more, while Chevron’s gas for 30¢ a gallon literally brought traffic to a halt. 

The activation inspired social media posts of users’ discounted finds, women donning their 1950s best to participate and overall praise for the show. Others lamented that Maisel Day prices weren’t being offered nationwide.

It’s no coincidence that Aug 15 also happened to kick off the final round of Emmy voting. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel won the Emmy in 2018 for Outstanding Comedy Series, an honor for which it has been nominated again.

Amazon used a similar marketing strategy, although on a smaller scale, to promote the show’s season two premiere in December. The company recreated New York’s historic Carnegie Deli in a pop-up activation to offer discounted sandwiches. The famous deli closed in 2016 but for one day, guests in Lower Manhattan could imagine what it was like to dine there in 1958, as resurrected by the Carnegie Deli owners and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel production team. 

All proceeds from the Carnegie Deli activation were matched by Amazon and donated to The Lower Eastside Girls Club (LESGC). The inclusion of a deli in both promotions corresponds with moments in the show in which characters dine and write jokes in the iconic Stage Deli, which closed in 2012.

Amazon frequently uses experiential marketing to promote its original content. For the release of Good Omens, Amazon erected Instagram-worthy sets around SXSW and filled the streets with actors dressed as various characters in the apocalyptic tale including nuns, angels and demons.

Honda Partners With Riot Games, Becomes First North American Automaker To Sponsor Esports Team And League

Honda is expanding its presence in esports and strengthening its bond with the young consumer force by becoming the exclusive automotive sponsor of the Riot Games League of Legends Championship Series (LCS). The initiative will make Honda the first North American automaker to be a sponsor of both a preeminent esports league (LCS) and Team Liquid, a team within the league. 

The car brand is strengthening its existing partnership with gaming leader and three-time LCS champion Team Liquid, and developing stronger ties to the streaming platform Twitch. According to the press release issued by the company, the effort will include sponsorship of the League MVP, the LCS Scouting Grounds (the premiere tournament for up and coming League of Legends players), access to advertising inventory live on LCS game days, as well as custom content highlighting the imagination and determination of the league’s top athletes.

To appeal to the young audience, four 15-second video spots were created for the initiative. The clips encourage viewers to “find their drive” and stay determined, and include feature spots with members of Team Liquid. They will run on Twitch, YouTube, Reddit, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. The viewers see Doublelift, Hungrybox, Vivid, and CEO Steve Arhancet in custom-wrapped 2019 Honda Civics. 

Considering that Riot Games has been a dominant player in North American and global esports scene since its launch of League of Legends in 2009, the initiative promises to be especially successful. Over the last four years, League of Legends was the top esport in terms of viewership in North America, seeing 1.1 million average daily unique viewers and 26 million total hours watched during the LCS 2018 full season. With this move, Honda wants to prove its dedication to building an emotional bond with Gen-Z and millennial, and demonstrate that the Honda Civic is more than just an affordable car. 

Phil Hruska, manager of Media Strategy at American Honda said, “Through this partnership with the LCS, Honda will continue to forge a strong connection with the next generation of car buyers who happen to be fans of the incredible athletes of Team Liquid and the League of Legends Championship Series in North America. We understand the passion of esports fans and how strongly they support the gaming community, and Honda is fully vested in creating one-of-a-kind, unforgettable experiences for gamers as we launch the next phase of Honda’s endeavor in esports and gaming.” 

The partnership will launch around the Summer Split Playoffs, which will begin in Los Angeles on August 10, and the Finals, taking place in Detroit, Michigan on August 24-25.  

Brands Take A Bite Out Of Shark Week With A Tide Of Activations

Shark Week is back for its 31st year and is riding the wave of partner tie-ins to celebrate the longest-running cable TV programming event in history. Last year, Shark Week reached 34.9 million total viewers on Total Day and 3.5 million streams across all Discovery Go digital platforms. 

This year, Discovery is bringing back the experience to viewers through digital and social media platforms with new episodes on Snapchat, exclusive original programming through Discovery’s streaming Go app and over 100 new shark GIFs and stickers via Giphy.

Thanks to Discovery’s acquisition of Scripps last year, the company is also leveraging sister networks Food Network, HGTV and ID by turning their promos into Shark Week spots.

In addition to returning partners like Southwest, Build-A-Bear and Vineyard Vines, a plethora of new brands have launched Shark Week-inspired merchandise and campaigns. Here are the Shark Week partnerships that are making the biggest splash.


Hyundai, the only auto sponsor of this year’s Shark Week, hopes to boost brand metrics by partnering with Discovery on the beloved event. The partnership includes programming of the brand’s latest “Better Drives Us” campaign video spot which blends footage of sharks swimming and footage of a Hyundai SUV. The automaker will also have the ability to run targeted video on demand (VOD) and over-the-top (OTT) ads in a series—based on the Discovery channel’s first scripted feature-length film called Capsized: Blood in the Water—that will live on the Go app.


In its sixth consecutive partnership with Shark Week, the airline launched an augmented reality (AR) filter that allows fans to “swim with sharks” via mobile devices and Southwest’s site. Additionally, a never-before-seen episode of the series is available for viewing inflight on all Southwest flights.

LandShark Lager

Beer company LandShark Lager is adopting 100 sharks and giving fans a chance to swim with one of them at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville Resort in Hollywood, Florida. Six winners will have the chance to win the grand prize, an all-inclusive trip for a two-night stay and a shark dive. To enter, fans 21 and over must text SHARK to 78896 and can do so through August 24.

LandShark Lager also created Shark Week-inspired video spots poking fun at Corona with the messaging, “This week is our week.”

View this post on Instagram

Hey, Corona. "Can" you not? This is our week. 🦈

A post shared by LandShark Lager (@landsharklager) on


The sneaker brand is new to the lineup of those getting in on Shark Week action. Launching in stores and online in July, the partnership includes a Vans line of kid and adult footwear, t-shirts and accessories featuring graphic shark overlays. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Oceana, an organization dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans.

Red Lobster

To give its seafood lovers something new, Red Lobster created a pairing menu for Shark Week to make “hosting a Shark Week party easier and more fun than ever.” The restaurant is suggesting which dishes to order based on the shows airing throughout the week.


Kellogg’s teamed up with the creator of viral children’s song Baby Shark, Pinkfong, to launch a Baby Shark breakfast cereal. Starting August 17, the cereal will be available at Sam’s Club, and in late September at Walmart.


Returning partner Build-A-Bear created a new collection of furry shark stuffed animals and clothing, available in all stores and online. The brand also released a behind-the-scenes video showing rough sketches that formed the final toys.

Vineyard Vines

The brand is back with a selection of almost 50 styles of apparel, swimwear and beach accessories for kids, men and women.

‘Stranger Things Three’ Brand Activations, Like Totally, Bank On ’80s Nostalgia

Stranger Things season three, released on July 4th, broke the Netflix record for most-viewed series in the first four days (40.7 million household accounts watched the new season since its global launch). The streaming giant is also hopeful that fans do more than just sit back and passively watch.

It’s estimated consumers spend $122 billion a year on entertainment-linked merchandise, and Netflix and partner brands want to ride the profitable wave of brightly-colored, questionably-styled-hair, nostalgic fun. 

In fact, Netflix shook on deals with over 75 brands, putting the participating companies, fans and itself in a win-win-win situation, as the streaming service hopes to drive more subscriptions and greater fan excitement through the partnerships. 

The focus of the brand activations is mostly the trendy, bitchin ’80s nostalgia, so let’s look at the most honorable mentions. 

Eggo Waffles 

Eggo waffles producer Kellogg’s has had an ongoing partnership with Netflix and this time around, offered the fans a major ‘80s throwback with their retro ads, promoting the show’s character, Eleven’s, favorite food, which is certainly also a favorite treat from many viewers’ childhood. Maybe we’ll all start bickering with our siblings again to “leggo my Eggo.”

Hasbro Gaming

Hasbro Gaming invited the show fans to put their cell phones down and gather around a table to play retro-inspired games “Dungeons & Dragons” (which the characters play in the first episode of the sci-fi series) and “Trivial Pursuit Back to The 80’s Edition.” The latter incorporates Stranger Things-themed questions in addition to topics like pop culture, music, technology, trends and more. 


Schwinn released another limited edition Stranger Things bike, inspired by the “iron horse” of Lucas Sinclair (Caleb McLaughlin). The retro-bike was sold out almost immediately, we assume to escape the Upside Down. 


Those who missed out on the outrageous footwear designs of the 80’s have the chance to go back in time. “Nike x Stranger Things Air Tailwind 79 OG” collection of  flashy sneakers looks like it’s been pulled from the ’80s time capsule. The sports brand and Netflix collaborated on a special Stranger Things Three sneaker edition so the fans can be “stranger” head to toe. 

Funko Pops

The vinyl figurines maker offers to purchase the entire Stranger Things crew, including Jim Hopper dressed to impress for a date, Lucas wearing casual attire, Max ready to go to the mall, Dustin wearing camp clothes, Will the Wise dressed for a Dungeons & Dragons session, Erica looking ready for action, Steve wearing an adorable Ahoy hat and carrying an ice cream cone, Eleven dressed for the mall and Eleven ready for battle. In addition, avid fans can pick up Stranger Things-branded  notebooks, socks, lunch boxes and mugs. 


To celebrate the new season of the show, Lego released a lego set and a retro-poster, which imitates one of the original Stranger Things season one posters, showing Mike, Dustin and Lucas finding Will’s (all drawn as Lego characters, of course). 


Levi’s Fall/Winter 2019 capsule collection pieces are replete with graphics from the Netflix series, including “One summer can change everything” (a central theme for season three) and “Camp Know Where.” Completely casual but so “psych.” 

Major League Baseball 

MLB is no stranger to Stranger Things, and during Major Leagues, the show made 13 appearances at ballparks across the country, offering Stranger Things MLB gear and merchandise, as well as an immersive experience of visiting the Upside Down–the extra-dimensional spot where nothing is as it seems. 

Baskin Robbins 

Baskin-Robbins turned its ice-cream shop in Burbank, California into “Scoops Ahoy,” exactly mimicking the shop from Netflix show’s third season. The fans can grab a scoop or two at the store from  July 2 to July 14.


Target’s “You ready to party like it’s 1985?” campaign offers to “go retro with [its] totally rad collections” of “Splashtown, USA,” “Grillin’ & Chillin,'”, “Style to the Max” and “Cool at School” merch. And by the way, Target is another location where “Scoops, Ahoy” ice-cream is available for purchase. 


H&M launched a global capsule collection with Stranger Things, complete with retro logo T-shirts and swimwear. What can we say, “one summer can change everything.” 


Instant before Instagram filmmaker, Polaroid was certainly in luck with the show, as it presented a perfect opportunity for the brand to play on the1980s nostalgia and re-introduce its retro products and a limited-edition instant camera inspired by Stranger Things, with unique filters and frames that feel totally “stranger.”  


Shutterstock also didn’t miss out on a chance to remind us of its library of “strange stock,” as a part of the brand’s “It’s Shutterstock” campaign. The video was designed as a preview for Stranger Things season three, and, of course, made 100 percent of Shutterstock assets. See for yourself. 


Coca-Cola made a bold move with bringing back a once failed new Coke recipe and is on a mission to sell 500,000 limited-edition cans of “New Coke,” as well as a New Coke Throwback Collection of limited-edition apparel.

Burger King

Actually, nothing strange about this one. The Upside Down Whopper is well, what it sounds like it is. It’s  the original Whopper, stuffed with the same ingredients, served upside down in exclusive packaging. 


And finally, one of the latest partnerships between Netflix and Microsoft gave birth to Windows 1.0-inspired app that lets users experience the graphical user interface they first publicly released in November 1985. 

Microsoft Reimagines 1985 Tech With Stranger Things-Inspired PC App

Microsoft delivers a 1985 throwback experience for Stranger Things fans across the country. Created with Netflix, the tech company launched a Windows 1.0-inspired app that lets users experience the graphical user interface they first publicly released in November 1985. Though this version is a much rosier interpretation of the past PC, without the dreaded blue screen of death so common in the ’80s.

The free special edition personal computer (PC) app comes after the show’s third season premiered earlier this month. Inspired by the plot’s “Upside Down,” an alternate dimension that led to the Hawkins town invasion, the app is available on the Windows Store and includes puzzles and retro games that evoke ‘80s nostalgia. 

In addition to the app, Windows is giving users the chance to totally transform their desktops with PC wallpapers that feature themes of the show’s cast and graphics. 

Microsoft is rounding out the Stranger Things partnership with another experiential element—workshop pop-ups at Microsoft Stores called “Camp Know Where.” Here, fans can learn to make a Stranger Things mini-movies featuring mixed reality and 3D with Microsoft technology, or code a game with MakeCode Arcade. Users can also enter to win an Xbox One X Console when they play new “Stranger Things 3: The Game” at local Microsoft stores. 

The partnership with Microsoft highlights Netflix’s vast marketing strategy to promote Stranger Things 3 and is one of many activations that incorporates the show’s throwback theme. Noteworthy tie-ins include Burger King and Coca-Cola’s creation of the Upside Down WHOPPER and Baskin-Robbins’ transformation of its Burbank store into the show’s ice cream shop, Scoops Ahoy. The Chicago Cubs launched a Snapchat augmented-reality (AR) filter that turns Wrigley Stadium into the Upside Down. Nike even got in on ‘80s fever, launching a collection of apparel that pays homage to the show. 

As Connected Television Viewership Surges, Marketers Urged To Create Personalized, Measurable Ads

Impressions served on connected television (CTV) platforms increased from 17 percent in 2017 to 28 percent, according to a report from Campaign Insight and Innovid, “2018 Global Video Benchmarks.”

The study provides video key performance indicators (KPIs) to explore the future of television and video advertising as consumers shift their viewing habits to CTV. The insights are based on a sample representing about one-third of all US video impressions, namely every campaign that ran with Innovid from January 1-December 31 2018, across over 340 top global companies.

To date, over 55 percent of the US population owns a CTV device, and the figure is expected to reach 60.1 percent by 2022. The data suggests that CTV is experiencing ongoing growth with broadcasters at the helm, and digital marketing dollars are following. In 2018, 68 percent of all campaigns contained CTV, and 63 percent of broadcaster impressions were served on CTV. Similarly, broadcasters comprised 83 percent of all CTV campaigns, indicating that consumers are watching traditional television content on connected devices. 

The data gives advertisers good reason to realign budget and strategy to engage with consumers on CTV. As customers’ desires for highly personalized content and experiences rise, marketers are utilizing data-driven dynamic videos that are 10 seconds in length—which the report found jumped from five percent in 2017 to 11 percent in 2018 across social and programmatic channels via mobile.

“As CTV/OTT becomes more commonplace, so do consumer expectations around the relevancy and personalization of advertising. Marketers would be well-served to seize the opportunities available in this still nascent market to deliver video advertising that is more engaging, more personalized and more measurable,” said Alan Wolk, co-founder and lead analyst, TV[R]EV.

“Honestly, Insights Can Only Get You So Far” Boiler Room’s Stephen Mai On Building The Netflix Of The Underground

A sleepy, Victorian warehouse isn’t the first place you’d associate with one of the most exciting brands in streaming, but it’s in this little corner of Hackney, East London that Boiler Room calls home.

Emerging in 2010, Boiler Room’s unique take on music broadcasting has fuelled rapid growth. Starting life as a live stream recorded from a webcam duct-taped to the wall of a disused boiler room, the company is now a global phenomenon. Today, Boiler Room hosts shows and performances from over 100 cities worldwide; from Stockholm to Shanghai, its regular programming reaching over 157 million people a month.

In recent years, the company has begun to diversify its offering and search out new audiences outside of music. This culminated last year with the launch of 4:3; Boiler Room’s new platform for underground film and documentary, which is already hailed as the “Netflix for the underground.”

I spoke with Stephen Mai, the company’s chief content officer and CMO, about Boiler Room’s rapidly developing audience, the role of insights in streaming and how his company is taking the niche mainstream.

Can you give us a quick history of Boiler Room?

Boiler Room started off as just a webcam where we recorded people DJing in a literal boiler room. At the time, our founder Blaise [Bellville] never anticipated that people would even be into watching that kind of thing.

Over time, by throwing more parties, working with different acts and creating a cultural style through our broadcasts, we’ve been able to build the brand. Because we tapped into a subculture and the underground, we can explore a whole range of different subjects and topics. After all, if you think about it, music has been the bedrock to a lot of youth culture; [but it can also] be fashion, activism or other [cultural] touchpoints.

How did you become involved with Boiler Room?

I’ve built a career on transforming media brands and using emerging content and marketing in a way that is impactful and effective. Before Boiler Room, I worked with LadBible–where the challenge was to realign the brand into one that was more commercially viable. I made it my mission to transform the brand into one that championed social change. In the two years I was there, I managed a few massive campaigns that changed the perception of the brand. The fact that we went from a brand that made most media agencies say “hmm I don’t know” into one that won eight Cannes Lions is absurd when you think about it.

Boiler Room was a very different challenge. It already had a very established brand and audience before I came over. The challenge here is how we can use our brand to drive counter-narratives around new verticals and bridge the gap between reality and digital. Boiler Room can influence culture and that really excites me.

Boiler Room is one of the more unique players in the streaming market. In your opinion, what is the thing that makes you stand out? 

A lot of people describe us as a new MTV, but we see ourselves as more of a cultural institution like an art gallery or a museum. The music we cover is essentially “the art,” but it also allows us to explore the surrounding narratives and culture. As a brand, we’ve got the freedom to follow our own path when it comes to what we can and can’t do.

How would you describe the relationship between Boiler Room and its audience right now?

In terms of our audience, it’s my ambition to build a cultural space that exists wherever they are. Rather than trying to convert them into website clicks, we’re more interested in trying to exist in their world and in their culture. In many ways, we see ourselves more like a public service broadcaster. We want to understand what captures the interests of young people and create a space where that kind of stuff happens [more organically].

You’ve mentioned that having a profound understanding of your audience underpins a lot of what Boiler Room does. As a marketer, how do you go about getting those insights?

I’m quite privileged in the sense that as a marketing team we’re able to interact with our audience in a number of different ways. We throw over 400 events a year; so, we’re probably one of the few brands out there who get to see our audience in real life on a regular basis. We have thousands of kids who RSVP to our parties every year. We can literally see trends in music, fashion and culture as they unfold in all these different cities. It’s great to be able to use that as inspiration and as a catalyst for our programming.

Beyond this, we have also come up with a sophisticated way of using the insights we derive from our social channels and website data. We put a lot of effort into understanding our audience’s behavior online and their interests. It allows us to diversify our offering, which is becoming more and more important as we move into the world of original content. As we’ve expanded away from electronic music, we’ve started to see specific tribes develop within our audience. The next step is using digital analytics to track their behavior, discover what they’re into and service them better.

How important are analytics in informing and shaping the creative side of Boiler Room?

Honestly, insights can only take you so far. It helps that you have insights for inspiration, but it’s much more important to have some of the best music creators in the world sitting in the office. Our curators are in touch with what’s happening in the music world. They all put on nights, manage artists on the side and are firmly into the idea of creating and pushing the next big thing.

The launch of our 4:3 channel is an interesting example of how we’ve learned from our audience and combined it with a curator who knows their stuff. We’ve created a platform that’s driven by the idea of hyper-curating content that is super leftfield. A lot of people would ask if young people are really into the idea of high art and long-form cultural documentaries, but our insights told us that they are very culturally curious. 

These were the people going to art galleries. We knew that if we could do something with a tone of voice that has a genuine love for the subject, then our audience would respond. In month one, we managed to gain 10 million views alone and have since managed to achieve a scale that most people would think is unbelievable. It goes to show, even if something might not seem the right fit on the surface, there’s usually an audience out there somewhere. You’ve just got to look hard enough.

There’s an obvious hazard here, though. If you’re committed to only covering niche topics, aren’t you in danger of running out of an audience?

I’m not sure actually. Both the mainstream and the underground can exist simultaneously on the same channel. A lot of people would describe our output as “niche,” but we’ve just hit 5 million followers on our social channels. Our ecosystem allows both groups to co-exist. We still have that cultural elite; the creators who we work with quite closely, but we can also accommodate a much wider audience. It’s like electronic music in a way; what was once a niche scene has become mainstream and globally recognized.

The evolution of content distribution has led us to a place where you’ve got things that were once considered niche reaching massive worldwide audiences. Take Game of Thrones for example. A few years back, a show like that would’ve struggled to find an audience because executives would’ve deemed the topic as having no chance of permeating the mainstream. Now though, these new channels exist, allowing us to tell really strong stories and become part of mainstream culture. It’s this philosophy that has allowed a brand like us to scale very, very quickly.

So, do you think insights are better used to inform a strategy rather than shaping executions?

Yes. One of the things I often tell marketers is that while a certain subject might seem like it’s not relatable, it’s our job to search out that hook that connects a piece of content with the people who love it.

Our Facebook strategy is a great example. We have 2.8 million followers, and as you can imagine, it would be impossible to come up with one piece of content that would please everyone. We try to pull out an aspect of the story that feels as relatable as possible. We’ve found that if you approach content distribution like this, then it doesn’t matter if the subject is niche. If the story is interesting then it will no doubt feel relevant to someone, and that’s the crux of what “mainstream” is.

Spotify Uses Bollywood Star Power To Launch First Multilingual Television Spot

Spotify launched a playful television video spot to expand on its first campaign in India launched earlier this year, “There’s A Playlist For That,” which uses location intelligence and cultural nuances to emphasize the platform’s diverse selection of music for all of life’s moods. Published to Spotify’s YouTube and India Twitter, the spot marks the company’s first television and first multilingual campaign in India and will extend to digital and out-of-home (OOH).

The 35-second spot, titled “Slow Breakfast,” shows a father, played by Bollywood actor Anil Kapoor, in the kitchen preparing breakfast for his teenage kids. When one of his sons, actor Ishaan Khattar, notices that his dad is whisking the eggs at a leisurely pace that matches the beat of the song, he changes the song via the Spotify app. In response to this new upbeat song, Kapoor shifts into high gear and starts rapidly chopping vegetables and whisking the eggs. In an excited state, however, he accidentally drops the skillet and the cooked omelet falls on the floor. The kids express their disappointment via sighs and nods, then Kapoor picks right back up from where he started whisking.

The spot reflects Spotify’s creative attempts to connect with the audience in India, the second-most populous country. Earlier this year, Spotify placed geotargeted, personalized OOH ads in important traffic intersections. This highly personalized approach ties into the exclusive features available to Spotify India, including multi-language music recommendations, playlists specifically curated by Indian music experts and new algorithmic playlists tracking music trending in different Indian cities.

“Spotify’s arrival in India is a big step forward in our overall global growth strategy. A fundamental piece of that strategy is staying connected to global culture while allowing room for local adaptation, and we’ve certainly achieved that with our India launch. We’ve worked closely with local teams of researchers, engineers, and cultural tastemakers to ensure this global product is going to be loved, used, and favored by people all over India, whether they’re listening to local Bollywood and Punjabi hits, or discovering curated global playlists of K-pop or Brazilian funk,” says Cecilia Qvist, Spotify’s global head of markets.

“The youth in India often deals with the pressures of judgement, individuality, social norms, and more; in this chaos, music acts like a companion,” said Rajdeepak Das, Leo Burnett’s managing director India and chief creative officer South Asia.

Spotify’s entrance into the Indian market means competition for Gaana, the country’s current most favored on-demand streaming app, according to a report from CyberMedia Research. Among those surveyed, 25 percent ranked Gaana as their top choice followed by 20 percent tied for Apple Music and Youtube, and 14 percent for Wynk. While only 50 percent of respondents said they were aware of Spotify.