Gamma Labs has partnered with ESL to make G Fuel the official energy drink of the 11th season of the global Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) tour. The new season, which will have a prize pool of over $1 million, kicks off in Shanghai on July 31 and includes stops in Oakland, Gyeonggi, and Katowice. Each event features Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO), StarCraft II, and League of Legends tournaments.

In addition to becoming the league’s official energy drink, G Fuel will also present MVP awards at each event, provide custom trophies to each recipient and have sponsored booths and product samplings at each stop over the course of the season. The MVP trophy presentations will be presented prior to the finals, at peak viewership. The season 10 finale had two million peak concurrent viewers, and 35 million unique viewers. This represents a 25 percent and 32 percent rise, respectively, compared to last year’s corresponding events. This highlights the exponential growth both the industry and IEM are experiencing as Season 1 topped out around 500,000 video sessions, and Season 10 hit a staggering 132.3 million video sessions.

Clifford Morgan, CEO and founder of Gamma Labs, explains what eSports opens up for his energy drink brand in this exclusive interview.

How has Gamma Labs explored eSports over the years with Optic Gaming and other teams?

When we first started testing the gaming market about three years ago, we worked with Optic Gaming and several other teams that have experienced tremendous growth since. We ended up having the best relationship with Faze Clan, so we focused our efforts on building a solid partnership with their organization. Since that time, we have moved the key members of Faze into a house near the office, sponsored two of the team members for Visas, and even came out with a flavor of G Fuel for them, Fazeberry. This relationship has helped us build strong roots in the gaming community, and has served as a good foundation for our brand to grow. Faze is now the #1 most watched gaming organization in the world, and the fastest growing. Cumulatively, their organization gets over 200 million YouTube views a month.

How have you seen eSports evolve over that time?

ESports has evolved tremendously since we entered the space. This is still the early stages of evolution though, and the landscape will continue to evolve over the next few years. With eSports entering the Olympics, competitive college gaming (like the PAC-12 announcement), and public television broadcasts (the debut of ELeague on Turner), the idea of professional gamers being regarded as professional athletes is just starting to penetrate the mainstream market. When I see savvy people from outside the space investing in the industry—like Mark Cuban’s recent minority purchase of a competitive team—it validates that eSports is the future of competitive sports.

Why did you decide to work with ESL on the Intel Extreme Masters (IEM), one of 18 leagues and tournaments they work with?

We felt the IEM partnership was a great fit for us for two reasons. We ship G Fuel to over 80 countries a month, and IEM’s season 11 directly overlaps some of our largest developing markets. More importantly, we believe G Fuel is the future of energy drinks. As consumers continue to become more health conscious, they are looking for products that will deliver more energy, without the chemicals typically found in canned energy drinks. G Fuel is the new technology of energy drinks—portable because of its powder form, just mix it with your own healthy water source, effective because of our use of quality ingredients, and sugar-free. Intel is one of the largest and most respected technology companies in the world, and we believe the future of energy drinks doesn’t come in a ready-to-drink can.

What do you feel separates IEM from other eSports competitions?

After my recent trip to Katowice, Poland for the Season 10 finale, I would have to say the quality of their production, which is also a direct result of the high caliber of people they have on their team. I’ve been backstage for UFC pay-per-view events, but IEM’s production was even more impressive. Since multiple games are being played, they have several events happening simultaneously. As a result, they have many teams of people that work cohesively together and it’s pretty impressive to see it in real-time. That, and the 34 million unique viewers that watched the event.

How is G Fuel being integrated into this event?

We’ll have tradeshow-style booths at each event so spectators will have an opportunity to taste all the flavors of G Fuel and bring home samples. This interaction is great for our brand, as people that try our products tend to become customers. Sampling only provides access to the people on-site, so the larger penetration is through digital content. We will be included in all the digital advertising prior, during, and post event. This gives us an opportunity for spectators to watch some of our unique content, and familiarize themselves with the brand.

What does the global nature of this touring tournament open up to G Fuel and how big of a global reach does Gamma Labs have?

Currently about one-third of our business is international. Our gaming roots are in console games (Xbox and PlayStation), but the bigger market is clearly in PC gaming. As we penetrate the PC market, we will continue to gain exposure and grow the business globally. We are preparing G Fuel labels in Korean, Chinese, and German, and we’re preparing to open our first overseas distribution center in London.

What separates G Fuel from the other energy drinks involved in eSports?

Unquestionably, the brand integration. Our customers are also fans of our brand. They interact with our influencers, collect tubs and shaker cups, and help spread our message. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen with any other brand. Last year, a high school senior had his yearbook picture taken holding up a tub of G Fuel! Every single day I get messages from aspiring gamers or kids that idolize our influencers, and this type of engagement is something that can’t be established with other brands that may have more money. The vibe or aura that surrounds Gamma Labs right now is truly incredible, and I believe that advantage will help us continue to gain market share.

What role do you see energy drinks playing in eSports with the pros as well as the fans?

ESports is going to continue to get more competitive, and the games are going to become more physically demanding. Wearable technology will eventually lead to competitive games that require both dexterity and athleticism. The PAC-12 announcement seems to open the door for NCAA competition. When the top colleges start offering scholarships to the best gamers, parents will need to reconsider how much time their kids spend practicing. To compete at the highest levels, people will need energy and focus. At the same time, they will be disciplined, just like any other athlete, so health and nutrition become a big part of training. G Fuel is the healthiest, most effective energy formula on the market. Racecar drivers put the best fuel in their cars so they can compete at the highest level. ESports competitors and fans rely on G Fuel to give them the competitive edge.

What does livestreaming open up for your brand as the season progresses?

G Fuel has been involved with livestreaming for quite some time, so this is not a new experience for us. In addition to some of our top YouTube influencers, we have many of the top streamers as brand ambassadors. Twitch revolutionized the streaming business over the last few years, and I see them as the industry leader for the foreseeable future. I see our involvement and exposure continuing to grow in the livestreaming space, and I can see that extending to handheld games from smartphones, not just PC.

How else is Gamma Labs connecting with eSports fans outside of this ESL/IEM activation?

We have an ongoing sponsorship with UMG, we are The Official Energy Drink of the New York ComicCon and Chicago ComicCon, and we have a few other things planned that we haven’t announced yet. We also sponsor many other teams and players outside of ESL/IEM, as well as YouTube and Twitch influencers. I think it’s important to mention that while gaming is a huge part of our customers’ lives, our demographic also requires energy and focus for their non-gaming activities. Whether it’s studying for an exam, writing code until the sun comes up, or going mountain biking, people need energy and focus. G Fuel provides a healthy source of energy to our consumers, without the sugar, crash, or chemicals typically found in energy drinks.