A slew of sponsors outside of gaming want to get in on the esports action as part of all-embracing marketing strategies to reach highly engaged millennial males. Mark nutritionally complete, staple foods start-up Soylent to a mix that seemingly is growing every day.
Solyent—which somewhat serves as a grab-and-go liquified lifeforce—is leveraging its convenient meal-replacement product and is appropriately targeting gamers, whose days can be devoid of time and exercise as they ply away at their trades in front of PCs, mobile devices or consoles.
Gamers can play through marathon sessions without a meal, which makes Solyent’s entry and integrations with its quick, cheap and filling foods a natural fit for the space.
Soylent surfaced in 2014 after a crowdfunding campaign generated nearly $1.5 million in orders, and their brand positioning is simple: it contains all the nutrients humans need to survive.
Why are gamers an important part of Soylent’s integrated marketing strategy?
Parker: Gamers, plain and simple, are the perfect use case and demographic fit. The core gaming community is predominately male and ages from 18-to-34. A tentpole event like E3 is an easy transition from our core engineering and tech user base to a broader audience. There is a great deal of overlap between the two groups already, which makes the marketing opportunities ideal. It can be a challenge to explain Soylent’s value proposition, but to gamers we’re offering them a mess-free, preparation-free, healthy alternative to the bulk of food products already in the space.
Charrow: I think the long-time popular misconception about gaming was that it was a hobby done in isolation. What livestreaming and esports have successfully demonstrated to marketers is that gaming is a social activity, and gamers are a big and passionate community. I’m not a gamer myself, but the concept of community is sacred and universal. That this community has embraced our brand is incredibly special to us, so of course we want to place more energy in growing and maintaining that relationship. A couple years ago, Buzzfeed published an article titled, “Soylent wants to be the Red Bull of video gaming.” While that’s an ambitious goal, I don’t think it is an accurate comparison. For one thing, Red Bull is already the Red Bull of gaming. Our approach, on the other hand, has been very grassroots. For the past year, it has literally just been Conor, up all night, tweeting with streamers, surprising fans with swag, and sending free cases of Soylent to LAN gaming centers and weekend tournaments. A more appropriate comparison would be that Soylent wants to be to esports what orange slices are to soccer games. If in 10 years, someone grabs a Soylent and is immediately taken back to the excitement of a tournament, or the camaraderie of playing against friends, then that’s when I’ll say our strategy has been a success.
— HOLLYWOOD HAMMERS (@HammersEsports) February 13, 2017
How are you looking at gaming and esports sponsorships? What are your points of entry?
Charrow: Conor can speak to this in more detail, but short the answer is “absolutely.” For now, we’re quite excited about our partnership with Hollywood Esports and the Hollywood Hammers. We partnered with them and MediaMation at E3 last month to present the super-fun MX4D booth. Free Soylent will also be available at their upcoming events at the iconic TCL Chinese Theatre. Our first major sponsorship was ESL One in late 2015. We haven’t done an event of that magnitude since simply because large events require a large chunk of our resources. Right now, we’re focusing on smaller, local events, but big events are certainly in our sights for the future. In the meantime, if you’re hosting a gaming event and want some Soylent, hit us up!
Parker: We’re looking at gaming events and esports broadly. We’re open to sponsoring new and up-and-coming teams. The bulk of our event support is aimed at the grassroots and smaller tournament levels. We’ve jumped into larger events in the past with ESL One, and while they have given us some great brand awareness, we’ve found spreading ourselves out to a wide variety of smaller tournaments in smaller communities gives us more meaningful touchpoints. That’s not to say large events are not important, but rather they don’t represent the core of our strategy.
How do Soylent’s experiential marketing missions keep evolving?
Charrow: We place more and more emphasis on “experiential” and less and less on “marketing.” When considering an event, we gut check with a shortlist of questions, like: “what is Soylent’s relevance to this event? Can Soylent offer something here that no other brand can offer?” And most importantly, “will Soylent improve the overall experience for attendees of the event?” For example, a burgers-and-beer fest was seeking a Soylent activation recently. I explained, “I love burgers, I love beer, I love your event. But if someone drinks a bottle of Soylent here, they won’t have room for burgers. We’d ruin your event!” [For our E3 activation this year it was] on the other end of the spectrum. There’s so much to see and do and only so much time before the halls close. The lines are long, both for exhibits and food. By providing free bottles of Soylent, we hopefully made the choice for some attendees between standing in line for lunch and standing in line for Fallout 4 a whole lot easier.
How are you leveraging your line of products to better connect with consumers?
Parker: Many of our connections in the gaming community can be traced back to smaller tournaments we funded, such as the Dota 2 BEAT Invitational tournament series. I’ve been actively engaging in conversations online about Soylent as well as connecting to groups that host in-kind and small-prize-pool events to get the product in the hands of gamers. Being a brand at a smaller event, in my opinion, endears you to the community more, because you are the one supporting their grassroots efforts. These are events the non-pro players get to touch and participate in. Larger events tend to generally be invite only, and while it’s great to see the pros play, it can be more meaningful to help support the non-professional group. We’ve made some key influencer relationships, two of these being our partnership with Kibler and Hafu, two prominent Hearthstone streamers, and many key brand associations and discussions can draw a line back to these two.
Charrow: I can only make assumptions about why Soylent has resonated so well with gamers. It may have a lot to do with our origin story in Silicon Valley, since the Venn diagram of gamers and techies has a pretty large overlap. The same could be said for the interests of our early employees. It may have a lot to with the rise of streaming, as professional gamers recognized the practical benefit of a food that was easy and discreet and wouldn’t interrupt their gameplay. But I think a lot of it also has to do with Conor, who interacts with our customers on reddit, Facebook and Twitter every day. By being both a passionate gamer and a passionate brand ambassador, he’s organically and earnestly kept Soylent relevant and ubiquitous in the realm of gaming. That’s how we hope to connect with consumers in other realms as well. We’re not going to focus on selling them product—we’re going to focus on fueling their passions.
Follow Manouk Akopyan on Twitter @Manouk_Akopyan