AMP Energy is the latest beverage company to enter the eSports scene, following in the pioneering marketing footsteps of companies such as Red Bull, Coca-Cola and Monster. AMP Energy partnered with HipHopDX and Twitch on June 23 to livestream the #NextLevel presented by AMP Energy gaming tournament featuring Capcom’s Street Fighter V.

During the event, professional gamers like Christopher Gonzales, Chris Tatarian, K-Brad, Alex Valle and Gootecks teamed up with rappers such as Trinidad James, Safaree, Roshon, Futuristic, and Problem to compete for bragging rights and a trophy made of AMP Energy cans. Chris Tatarian and Futuristic ultimately took home the prize.

Alexis Stoll, marketing manager at AMP Energy, explains to [a]listdaily why the company jumped into the eSports fray in this exclusive interview.

Why did you decide to enter the eSports arena?

This year marks the first time that AMP Energy has entered into the gaming world, and we did it in a big way through an exclusive partnership with Twitch. We were looking to resonate with the “energy need occasions” that arise within a gamer’s day, meeting a functional demand, while providing great flavor. Twitch was the ideal partner for AMP because it represents the gamer, allowing us to reach gamers no matter their interest in specific titles.

What games have you been targeting for your brand thus far and how do you go about choosing them?

At this point, we are focusing on our partnership with Twitch, an entire gaming community made up of gamers who are seeking out better tasting beverages that deliver on their energy needs.

How have you seen the opportunities in eSports grow? 

ESports is one of the fastest growing sports with viewership growing 100 percent over the past two years. However, it’s still somewhat uncharted territory, and brands are experimenting to see what resonates. Twitch is absolutely contributing to the growth of the sport. Just look at its monthly user base of more than 100 million community members that gather to watch and talk about video games, along with more than 1.7 million broadcasters.

attends Next Level Presented By AMP Energy, A Hip Hop Gaming Tournament at Rostrum Records on June 23, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.
Next Level Presented By AMP Energy, A Hip Hop Gaming Tournament at Rostrum Records in Los Angeles, California.

What has livestreaming opened up for connecting eSports fans with your brand?

It’s a unique opportunity because it allows us to speak to consumers in real-time as well as get live, authentic, raw conversations about the brand in a forum that our gaming audience is comfortable in.

How do you differentiate your brand in eSports from Red Bull, Coke, and other drinks?

AMP focuses on flavor in the energy category, something other players haven’t always addressed. Knowing that the gaming community is made up of energy drinkers, we saw an opportunity to be a part of what they are already doing, [and] to give them what they want more of. Our partnership with Twitch is exactly that—we’re giving gamers prizes and rewards that have currency in their daily gaming lifestyle.

What does the mainstream appeal of fighting games like Street Fighter V open up for AMP Energy?

The partnership with HipHopDX for the Street Fighter V tournament opened the brand up to awareness with a larger group of consumers. The HHDX event introduced AMP Energy to a large group of influential rappers and music artists, many of whom loved the product.

What does blending the rap world and eSports world open up for crossover appeal?

AMP aims to appeal to a younger millennial consumer. We know that the 18-24-year-old male fans aren’t just interested in one thing. They are interested in many things, so to blend music and gaming together was a great opportunity. AMP primarily talks to its fans via social media, so being able to organically gain social media presence via these artists opened us up to awareness by consumers we might not get on our own.

What type of social media buzz and livestreaming numbers did the event generate?

Nearly 25,000 people tuned into the #NextLevel broadcast. The event also generated more than 15 million social impressions and counting.

Do you think this type of event will become more regular?

We hope so. The event was a great success, and we’ll continue to see different groups coming together around this popular platform as eSports continue to grow.

What role does eSports play overall in connecting with consumers today?

ESports is changing the face of gaming and sports. While it still takes immense skill, gone are the days where you have to be a 6’9” athlete to have a chance to be a professional at a sport you love. As a brand, we love the growth of eSports because it allows brands to connect with a larger base of consumers—not just gamers, but fans of gaming. For us, it’s about staying authentic, because we know gamers will be the first to call us out if we stray too far from what’s important to them.

What impact is the televised eSports competition on ESPN and TBS opening up for brands?

It’s really taking something that was more under the radar (gaming) and is driving it to the surface and making it more mainstream. Gaming is now a subject of study at the university level, and we are now seeing it live and televised on TV. For brands, on the one hand, it’s great because it garners a lot of exposure and awareness at a mainstream level. However, on the flip side, brands have to tread carefully so they remain authentic to the gaming audience.