With Matt Wolf getting a promotion to vice president of entertainment, ventures and strategic alliances at Coca-Cola, his colleague Alban Dechelotte has been named head of global eSports for the soft drink company. Dechelotte told [a]listdaily that he’s been working behind-the-scenes at Coke for the past four years, after identifying gaming as a key growth potential for the company.
Dechelotte’s background is in traditional sports, having worked as a Western European sponsorship manager for Coke across sports like tennis and cycling. He explains: “There are a lot of similarities between traditional sports and eSports: from a competition point-of-view, from the stage, to the coaches, players, fans, the broadcast booth, the training, the pressure and the competitive ecosystem.”
Dechelotte said that, from a brand perspective, there’s a greater ability for brands to be on stage in eSports than anywhere else in gaming in the past. “Fans love that Coke is engaged with them and recognizes the popularity of eSports,” Dechelotte said. “They love being invited to live events, whether it’s through an activation in movie theaters for League of Legends or connecting with fans live at the League of Legends world championship—which we see as the Super Bowl of eSports.”
Coke will be at the Staples Center this October for the League of Legends world championship, and the company is also increasing its movie theater livestreaming activation. “We’ll be in cinemas like never before in both the number of cinemas and the number of countries, including Canada and Eastern countries,” Dechelotte said. “We’ll also be working with additional partners in cinemas.”
Dechelotte said Coke is actively looking beyond League of Legends to expand its eSports presence and that the company engaged in a huge international activation around the recent launch of Blizzard’s Overwatch. “We saw big eSports potential with Overwatch early on, and the recent success of the game has proven that out,” Dechelotte said. “Overwatch gives us a more diverse portfolio. It’s a nice complement to what we’ve done in the past with League of Legends.”
Dechelotte also sees a huge eSports growth opportunity for the soccer game, FIFA in the US. FIFA and Electronic Arts have been collaborating on the FIFA Interactive World Cup for years, and the Grand Final was held this past March in New York City. Additionally, the Final Showdown was broadcast live on Fox 1, as well as Twitch and YouTube. Coke is a long-time sponsor of both FIFA and the World Cup. “EA’s FIFA soccer franchise has been growing as an eSport, especially in the US,” Dechelotte said.
Next week, Coke is partnering with EA to celebrate the upcoming launch of FIFA 17 through a collectible Slurpee cup activation at 7-Eleven stores across the US. There will be a FIFA 17 contest featuring over 10,000 prizes. Dechelotte said there will be five layers of prizes that include codes that can be redeemed for in-game items like special jerseys; points that can be used for FIFA Ultimate Team; copies of the game; or a trip to Vancouver to meet the EA development team behind the game.
Later in September, Coke, FIFA and EA will launch a nationwide FIFA 17 collegiate eSports competition with students from 80 colleges participating. It’s a pilot program for the companies that will debut in the US and not in Europe, which Dechelotte said shows the power of soccer in this country.
The FIFA 17 competition will run for two to three months and feature a local round where students will compete to become college champions. The second round will award a winner for each of the four conferences, which sets up a Final Four showdown and championship round with the top universities competing for college tuition money. The competition will be livestreamed. Dechelotte said all of the details are still being worked out.
“We see 150 million players per year playing FIFA and we’re excited to be part of this franchise and help EA take this game further into eSports,” Dechelotte said. “Our belief in the potential for eSports aligns consistently with EA and what they’re building on their side for competitive play.”
The key with both traditional sports and eSports is to find the right balance between the sport and the brand, according to Dechelotte. However, two eSports games Coke won’t be getting involved with are Valve’s Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Activision’s Call of Duty. Dechelotte said the violence in these games and their Mature ratings will keep Coke on the sidelines from any marketing or sponsorship endeavors.