When you think of Coca-Cola, you probably imagine a polar bear or glass bottle of soda, but do you think of video games? You should. Recently named the third-most valuable company in the world, this 130-year-old brand is committed to engaging massive audiences and was one of the early mainstream brands to embrace eSports. Here’s how the most popular soft drink brand is making waves in the rising world of competitive gaming.

During an exclusive, 2014 interview with [a]listdaily, Matt Wolf (since promoted to vice president of entertainment, ventures and strategic alliances at Coca-Cola) said the company considers eSports a key pillar in its overall gaming strategy. The company aligned with Riot Games and its global League of Legends eSports infrastructure to build an amateur league featuring its Coke Zero brand.

The Power Of Streaming

“Two words: reach and scale,” Wolf expressed in the interview. “Twitch is powerful because it offers a direct-to-consumer marketing platform, however, we are really interested in the deeper integration with the community that lends itself more to the live event side of the business. The key to both platforms is credibility and authenticity—the right voice at the right time is critical to connect with the audience.”

Fans Need Communication And Engagement

Coca-Cola’s Twitter account, @CokeEsports, engages over 354,000 followers each day, growing by 100,000 in just a year.

“We work closely with Twitter because it gives us a close one-to-one relationship with people who follow us and we can communicate quickly with that audience,” Wolf said. “The response by players and fans has been positive. We use it to announce new programs and initiatives like renewing LCS and the Cinemark movie theater deal for viewing parties. It’s been a very strong bright spot. It’s an interesting byproduct as it relates to Riot and eSports in general. Fans are very social. Twitter can be a tenuous form of communication, but we continue to create messaging and content that ultimately is about positivity and celebration of eSports. I read responses very carefully, and when fans respond it makes all of this work worthwhile.”

Coca-Cola’s head of global eSports, Alban Dechelotte told [a]listdaily 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.”

Recently, the soda company hosted viewing parties for the 2017 Smite PC World Championship Grand Finals at select Cinemark Theaters across North America.


Authenticity Is Key

“ESports fans are just as, if not more, passionate about the games, teams, and players they follow than fans of traditional sports,” Dechelotte told ESports Insider, “but it is a much tighter rope to walk. Gamers are hyper-aware and highly communicative—make one mistake or appear disingenuous and you’ll get called out for it . . . not privately, either. If you understand them, speak their language, and give their passion the same level of respect and celebration as any other sport, they’ll love you for it.”

Dechelotte continued by saying, “we’ve learned to approach each game, community, and project we do with humility and tact. Overall, we think it’s better to start small and prioritize key insights in everything we do. ESports is not a fad. This is a real community and a sustainable industry that will keep growing year after year.”

Matt Wolf is a featured speaker at this year’s [a]list summit—sharing valuable insight into marketing strategies throughout the world of gaming. Coming to Los Angeles on February 16, [a]list summit: Competitive Gaming + ESports is the definitive event for marketers who want to understand eSports and competitive gaming and are looking to investigate opportunities in the space.

Register now to attend [a]list summit and learn the tactics and techniques to tap into this massive opportunity and get in front of this vibrant, burgeoning audience.