Quest Nutrition, maker of the Quest Bar, is the first non-endemic sponsor to get on board Robert Morris University’s (RMU) eSports program. The sponsorship encompass all RMU eSports teams, including League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Dota 2, Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm. The university currently has 75 competitive gaming students on scholarship.
The private university was the first academic institution to jump into eSports, building out an eSports arena and offering $1.5 million in partial scholarships for players across the top PC games for the 2016-17 season. The Illinois-based school’s League of Legends team finished second place in the University League of Legends (uLoL) competition during the 2015-2016 school year. Now the school is working with Quest Nutrition to add exercise, health and nutrition to the mix for its eSports players.
Nick Robinson, chief marketing officer of Quest Nutrition, told [a]listdaily that the eSports and gaming communities have been traditionally stereotyped for being unhealthy and sedentary. “After researching the space, meeting with pro players, and talking about their training regiment, we realized that these athletes need to treat their bodies much like traditional athletes do and we want to help them tell the story of how living a healthy lifestyle can help their performance,” Robinson said. “We love how proactive RMU has been about trailblazing within the collegiate eSports space—how they’ve provided generous scholarships for their eSports athletes—and their mindset on physical fitness and nutritional wellness, which extends to their eSports program as well.”
Kurt Melcher, executive director and founder of the Varsity eSports program at RMU, said Quest is going beyond providing student-athletes bars, supplements and shakes. “We’re making a concerted effort to add a fitness component to what we do,” Melcher said. “Twice a week, our teams work with athletic trainers and receive instruction for lightweight and eSports-specific training using core competencies of what weight regiment makes sense. We have them monitored by trainers for physical activity like ellipticals or treadmills, and we’re setting life goals on improvements on what they want to achieve.”
Robinson said Quest has been active in the eSports space for some time, but this is the company’s first involvement in collegiate eSports. “We’re going to be creating content around the team, the players and telling the story of how our products help them succeed both in the classroom and in competition,” Robinson said.
Melcher said the student-athletes will create video testimonials focusing on nutrition. One example is tracking a player early on in his fitness program, and then midway, then through the season to follow the ups-and-downs of training. Quest will also receive social media and Twitch promotion, as well as placement on the walls of the school’s arena in addition to player uniforms and training gear.
“This partnership allows us to tell the stories of collegiate eSports athletes who are training to be the best they can, while also providing them with nutritional options that help them perform at their best,” Robinson said. “It’s a win-win for both sides.”
Robinson also said that the company is less focused on direct sales conversions from this partnership, and more interested in telling compelling stories and supporting the next wave of top eSports athletes. “In a sport where milliseconds matter, every edge that an athlete can create is important,” Robinson said. “Living a healthy lifestyle puts these athletes in the best mental and physical condition and allows them to excel in competition.”
Quest’s demographics skew younger and capturing the college audience, which is often short on time and in need of healthy snack alternatives, is a key part of the company’s overall marketing strategy. “ESports fans are typically young, male millennials, which is a rather difficult segment to reach,” Robinson said. “By telling compelling stories about top-tier athletes, we’re able to create an aspirational lifestyle, and hopefully convert a percentage of this audience into Quest fans.”
Quest is the first non-endemic sponsor to partner with RMU. The school works with endemic companies Twitch, SteelSeries, Asus, DX Racer, Infiniscene, Pwnit Wear and Discord. Melcher said it’s gotten more difficult to attract sponsors as more schools are formalizing eSports and bringing them into athletics. “People aren’t lining up to give us tens of thousands of dollars,” Melcher said. “Most of our partnerships are around product.”