Procter and Gamble brand Gillette is partnering with popular global esports organization Team SoloMid (TSM) as part of the Riot Games’ new 2018 North American League of Legends Championship Series (LCS). With this move, TSM joins the New England Patriots and Barcelona FC as part of the shaving and grooming brand’s international sports teams.
While this is Gillette’s first North American sponsorship for LCS, the company is also sponsoring Edward Gaming, one of China’s top League of Legends teams.
Greg Via, head of global sports and entertainment marketing for Gillette and Procter and Gamble, told AListDaily that while the brand has been exploring the esports arena for over three years now, it has been involved in sports gaming before.
“We’ve had some good partnerships with EA Sports around the Madden franchise and some of the others, and we had to take notice of the community and the number of fans that were flocking to esports,” he said. “We wanted to understand the fandom, understand the community and understand why it was so popular. We did some research. We participated in some events to test and to get a feel if we needed to be in it.”
Gillette first started working with esports as a sponsor for the Intel Extreme Masters (IEM) World Championships in Katowice, Poland in February. The company had a razor activation that allowed pro gamers, casters and fans to create custom 3D printed esports razors at a large booth inside the exhibit hall next to the arena.
“We weren’t sure how it was going to be accepted, but fans liked the customization,” Via said. “We did learn a lot about the consumer there. What we saw is that a lot of booths had interactions with fans.”
Gillette decided to engage with fans through pro gamer Enrique “xPeke” Cendeno, who played against the fans, signed autographs and took selfies with them. The company then made Cendeno an esports ambassador for the brand, which is part of the company’s marketing messaging that illustrates the similarities between esports pros and traditional pro athletes.
With that, the razor brand is treating its pro gaming roster the same as the other professional athletes it works with.
“I don’t treat our guys at TSM any different than I treat Thomas Muller, Antoine Griezmann or even Neymar Jr.,” Via said. “They all have their particular talents, they all have their skills and they’re all athletes. We treat everybody the same.”
While Gillette is currently focusing on LCS, which has moved to a franchise model replicating traditional sports for 2018, it’s not the only esports game in town.
“We’re obviously involved with TSM and with League of Legends, but the Overwatch League is something I’m watching closely as well because we are sponsors of the New England Patriots,” Via said. “They play in Gillette Stadium and they’re owned by the Kraft Group, who also has an Overwatch team. So, we are educating ourselves in Overwatch, trying to see if that’s something we need to be in.”
Although Gillette is showing interest Overwatch, it won’t be exploring other shooter game esports, which Via said is dictated by being part of Procter and Gamble.
“Some of the most popular games are shooters,.” he explained, “but just as a philosophy of Procter and Gamble we cannot enter the genre, so there are games out there [like] Counter-Strike, Call of Duty and others that we cannot do as a brand. That’s why League of Legends fits well.”
“Even with Overwatch, which we’re not involved with, we have to look at that even though it’s a shooter. But it’s cartoony, and characters regenerate, so nobody’s really dying. But being part of a larger corporation, it’s hard to get the greenlight to explore some of those things sometimes.”
When it comes to the broader goals for the brand in esports, Via wants to continue finding the best messaging to sell razors without overburdening fans with marketing.
“We’ve been involved in mainstream sports for over 100 years, and no one ever asked me, ‘Why are you sponsoring FC Barcelona? Why do I see your signage at the NFL? Why are you part of Major League Baseball? Why are you part of the Olympics?’” Via explained. “No one ever asks me those questions because we’ve been a part of sports for such a long time. People are almost expecting to see us because we are such a mainstream sponsor. That’s something we’re going to have to figure out a little bit more within esports to truly belong and continue to interact with the community in a positive manner.”