The first live activation under Evil Geniuses sponsorship deal with Chinese TV brand Hisense will take place at Charlotte Motor Speedway during the May 26 weekend of the Hisense 4K TV 300.
NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Erik Jones of Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) and Clint Bowyer of Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), both claiming to be the best gamer in all of NASCAR, will compete on Halo 5 alongside Evil Geniuses pros and a pair of fans. The Hisense Dual Threat Challenge tournament will take place on the 16,000 square-foot Speedway TV.
Peter Dager, CEO of Evil Geniuses, told AListDaily that NASCAR serves as the perfect backdrop for this competitive gaming event because the team already works with big NASCAR partners Hisense, Xfinity and Monster Energy.
“All of these brands are expanding into esports and are looking to us for a lot of North American representation,” Dager explained. “It makes sense for Hisense as a digital technology company because of console video games like Halo.”
Dager said that one of the most important things the team is focusing on with these brand activations is finding ways to not force the brand into esports. With this NASCAR activation, there’s also the added element of integrating video games into traditional sports fans’ expectations. “We’re finding ways to make the collaborations feel very genuine,” Dager said. “You don’t want traditional sports fans to say video games aren’t sports. It’s important to understand that traditional sports are very different, but video games are on the rise. And just like there are a lot of NASCAR fans in the US, there are also a lot of esports fans.”
Dager admits there are a lot of similarities between how NASCAR promotes its brands across the drivers’ uniforms and how esports teams showcase companies on their jerseys. “I’m not a huge fan of NASCAR, but you can’t deny it has a giant audience throughout the US,” he said. “Not everyone is a fan of everything. As a brand that’s interested in bringing in new types of fans, it’s important to not limit yourself and try new things.”
While it’s still early days with the Hisense partnership, Dager said Evil Geniuses has worked with a lot of different partners over the years and it always takes some time when developing strategies with a new sponsor. “We communicate what works and what doesn’t work in this space,” Dager explained. “It’s a big advertisement and we’re trying to help them promote the brand. But we need to present the brand as something we believe in and are genuinely behind.”
Dager said indirect promotion of brands, like the upcoming NASCAR activation, can result in a positive connection for esports fans the next time they’re in the market for a new TV. “There’s an honesty you have to present on the internet because everything is fact-checked. If you stretch things too far, people will call you out if it’s not entirely genuine,” Dager said. “People aren’t afraid to speak up and rally against something that’s not authentic.”
Ultimately, the message Evil Geniuses wants to help spread to gamers is that “Hisense offers consumers one of the best TVs for their affordable dollar.” Hisense is currently outfitting all of the Evil Geniuses gaming houses with 4K TVs, which will allow the brand to appear during practices and through social channels.
The fact that Hisense, a global consumer electronics brand, has jumped into esports is good for the entire ecosystem, according to Dager.
“More non-endemics getting involved in esports is groundbreaking for everyone involved,” Dager said. “It provides a substantially larger bankroll to compete in the space. As the cost of business goes up every year, the more sponsors we can bring in at a higher rate allows us to keep going. But it also encourages other non-endemics. It’s easier to bring in the next brand when they see Hisense come on board—and not just for Evil Geniuses, but for other teams or leagues or tournaments.”