With over a billion people aware of professional video gaming globally, Comcast is the latest mainstream company to jump into the eSports space. Comcast’s Xfinity brand is sponsoring the ESL, as well as North American eSports team Evil Geniuses. As part of these new partnerships, Xfinity will have branding opportunities at industry broadcasts, tournaments, and events, and will outfit each of Evil Geniuses’ training facilities with Gigabit Pro Internet service and the company’s flagship video product, Xfinity X1.
As an official ESL partner, Xfinity naming and branding will be integrated immediately in Thursday’s Halo Championship Series: Pro League Season 1 and this weekend’s Heroes of the Storm Live Finals in Los Angeles. In addition, Xfinity will be present at the organization’s high-profile tournaments including the ESL CS: GO Pro League, ESL Arena at PAX Prime, the North American Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) event, and will have involvement in other premium ESL events and products.
As part of these sponsorships, Xfinity will also become the official entertainment partner and the official internet provider of Evil Geniuses. Founded in 1999 by Alexander Garfield, EG fields some of the world’s best squads and players in Dota 2, StarCraft II, Halo 5: Guardians and fighting games.
Evil Geniuses training facilities in Alameda, CA and Urbana, IL will be installed with Xfinity’s Gigabit Pro Internet service, Xfinity X1 and additional technology and equipment to support the team. Xfinity branding will also appear on team jerseys, social channels, during live streams and across all player appearances.
Matt Lederer, executive director of sports marketing at Comcast, explains how these partnerships will help Comcast connect with a hard-to-reach younger demographic in this exclusive interview.
Why are you entering the eSports space now?
We’ve been keeping our eye on eSports for the last 18 to 24 months. We’ve dabbled with some on-site work at a PAX conference and worked on some things with a publisher. But we’re jumping into it in a big way. We’re seeing the trend and the direction the sport is taking, especially here in the U.S.
There are many opportunities provided through ESL and Evil Geniuses. Unlike almost any other partnership, the fact that our internet product is so endemic and natural to how the players and participants play and participate made getting into the space an easy decision.
How do you view eSports compared to a traditional sport?
We’re looking at it as a group of participants and spectators that are an important segment for the future of our company. These are young, diverse people who either play games professionally or watch the competition. To have a sport that leverages the fastest speed Xfinity provides a great opportunity for our company.
Did seeing more mainstream companies enter this space impact your decision?
Yahoo, TBS and ESPN are all in it. We’re in it because of the segment of fans who express enthusiasm about this sport.
This is also a fan base that can be finicky when it comes to direct marketing and not taking the right approach.
Finicky is a solid word to use. We’ll lean heavily on our partners. We want to continue to see eSports grow and evolve. “Authentic” is the buzzword in eSports. Evil Geniuses and ESL will help us be authentic. We are not going into this space assuming we know everything about it. We selected these two well-established partners to start with.
How will you connect with this fan base?
The Xfinity product is so natural and core, you’ll see first a very natural introduction to the sport which follows a lot of other partnerships we’ve done like Taylor Swift or NASCAR. We probably won’t use traditional ads or offer-driven creative. We want to celebrate the gaming community and speak to them in a respectful tone.
Will video content be part of this marketing plan?
Both partners will evolve with video. We’re starting with the internet being the core messaging with the great speed of Xfinity being great for gaming. Over time, we’re expecting to work with partners to create a content offering and lean into that video experience.
How will you tap into the social media reach of the Evil Geniuses pro gamers?
The structure of these partnerships offers us two unique opportunities through reach and passion. We love the fact that we have a game-agnostic ESL relationship. They cover a wide spectrum of games and leagues and they offer a great reach opportunity. Evil Geniuses taps into fans of the team and of specific players. We’ll work with Evil Geniuses players to create social conversations.
When will these partnerships kick off?
June 3 through 5 at the Halo ESL Championship. On ESL you’ll see branding within the analyst desk with both static and digital read-outs from casters. Evil Geniuses will have branding on the uniform jackets and shirts. Over time, you’ll see our branding from the streams they do from their gaming houses in Chicago and Alameda.
Is there any comparison to these early days of eSports to any other sports?
I can’t think of a sport or industry starting off like this. It feels like this has had a lot of traction in Europe and Asia and is now migrating to the U.S. I don’t know if I’ve ever been part of something at its conception. The movement upward is tremendous in where this is headed.
How did working with NASCAR fans help prepare you for eSports fans?
There’s a parallel with NASCAR fans also being finicky. In both spaces, a brand can have success if they come in and speak in an authentic and credible manner. In year one of our NASCAR partnership, our ads were a lot different than we do in the general market. We were touting the drivers and touting the racing experience. We’re entering the eSports space in a similar way. Our product is core to them and it Xfinity offers them an advantage when practicing and playing. It allows us to enter the space in a natural and credible way.
There are participants—spectators, teams, players—that create higher levels of passion. We’ll tap into that passion and drive some strong brand correlation.
Is it getting easier to make the case for eSports with the higher-ups?
The explanations internally about what eSports is are getting less and less. There’s an understanding of what this is, and the importance of the segment and our product’s connection to it, and the growth of it.
What impact do you see the recent success Turner has had with eSports on television having on the entire industry?
Any sort of exposure for eSports is a good thing for brands involved in the space, and it helps the internal explanations as well. We were ready to jump into the space before the TBS and some of the ESPN broadcasts. But the increased exposure is great because Evil Geniuses is trusting Xfinity Internet to be in their gaming houses to help compete and win. Our value and success comes through. The more exposure through increased digital or TV coverage will be a win for all brands who are involved in an authentic way.