Exclusive Interview: Raja Rajamannar, CMO, on Mastercard’s Recent League of Legends Sponsorship
What: We talked to Raja Rajamannar, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer at Mastercard, about the brand’s recent multi-year partnership with Riot Games, and the decision to become the first global sponsor for League of Legends esports.
Why it matters: This first-of-its-kind global agreement represents a diversification of the financial company’s world-class esports and entertainment portfolio. League of Legends esports games are broadcast live to millions of fans in 18 different languages across the globe, with a regular season viewership averaging 90 million hours-watched live, week-over-week, worldwide.
In September of last year, Mastercard announced a new multi-year partnership with Riot Games to become the first global sponsor for League of Legends esports. As the exclusive global payment services partner, Mastercard will focus on three annual global tournaments – the Mid-Season Invitational, the All-Star Event, and the pinnacle of all esports events, the World Championship. This represents a first-of-its-kind global agreement for the brand.
We talked to Raja Rajamannar, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer at Mastercard, about why the global payment services company decided to join the esports market, the marketing strategies it will implement, and why League of Legends esports was the right fit.
Portada: Why did you choose League of Legends esports to enter the esports market?
"First, we took our time in exploring and educating ourselves. We have been looking at esports for about two years. The passion for esports is undeniable. It’s a world-class phenomenon that’s engaging hundreds of millions of fans all over the world. Over the last several years, League of Legends Esports has become a massive cultural force of its own bringing people from different cultures together. It bridges sports and entertainment, and we are excited to be the first global partner of the world’s largest esport."
First, we took our time exploring and educating ourselves. We have been looking at esports for about two years.
"We have a world-class portfolio with major global sponsorships properties that include the PGA TOUR, UEFA Champions League, Rugby World Cup, the GRAMMY Awards, and Cannes Film Festival, and our sponsorship of esport complements our portfolio perfectly."
Portada: Why was this the right timing to enter the esports market?
"Mastercard has been a premier brand in sports and entertainment for over two decades. We continually review our partner portfolio to ensure we are staying current with consumers’ passions and to uncover opportunities to engage with new audiences."
"Our partnership with League of Legends esports opens opportunities for us to engage with this global community through onsite experiential activations like the Mastercard Nexus, and in-game through special Mastercard spend-and-use promotions. We’re also engaging with our banking partners to offer League of Legends Mastercard cards in select markets around the world."
Esports fans are generally younger but are among the most passionate in the world and rival fans of any other major sports.
"Esports fans are generally younger but are among the most passionate in the world and rival fans of any other major sports. As we continue to deliver amazing experiences for our loyal consumers, we are equally excited about emerging passions and new opportunities. Innovation is core to our company and that reflects our approach to partnerships as well as products and services."
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Portada: Besides special promotions among your clients, what marketing strategies will you use to leverage the sponsorship?
"We are developing unforgettable priceless experiences and unique offers through event activations – like The Mastercard Nexus – as well as through priceless.com and in-game promotions. For example, in the lead up to the World Championship Final, we opened up priceless fan opportunities such as attending the opening ceremony rehearsal, a behind-the-scenes tour, and the chance to play-test the pro-gaming PCs. These experiences all sold out on priceless.com, giving us the confidence that we are headed on the right path with this highly engaged community."
"First and foremost, we are focused on the fan experience. By collaborating with Riot Games, we are looking to co-create experiences for the fans and the community. We are learning what matters most to them, and this helps us define what is priceless for them."
— Mastercard (@Mastercard) December 9, 2018
Portada: Which platforms will be key to this sponsorship?
"We are delivering this through our Priceless.com marketing platform. Priceless is rooted in the insight that experiences matter more than things, and our sponsorship partners are key to bringing those unforgettable experiences to life. It’s an approach we bring to many of the sports and entertainment events we sponsor and a unique way to bring Priceless to life."
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Portada: What does a League of Legends fan look like?
"With an estimated audience of 380 million around the globe, it represents a fantastic opportunity for us to engage with a new millennial audience. Being innovative and forward-thinking is core to our DNA, and being at the forefront with new emerging passions like esports is very exciting for us as well."
Portada: Esports is followed by a rather young population. As a finances brand, how will you manage to connect with them?
"As a payments technology company, Mastercard is the leader in connected commerce. Our primary currency is trust, and safety and security form the core of our DNA. In the era of digital disruption, we have an unparalleled opportunity to bring together our experience and expertise in safe and secure transactions together with the new innovations and solutions that are smart, convenient, and safe for a better customer experience."
Mastercard is seeing a rise in the usage of digital wallets.
"Mastercard is seeing a rise in the usage of digital wallets. Telephone companies, banks, merchants, device makers, transport companies and others are aggressively competing for consumer adoption. With the introduction of the smart phone, there is now a device for every price point."
"This, combined with the rise of digital natives, and the increase in social media-led commerce, is leading to consumers using less cash, as phones become the preferred mode of payment."
— Mastercard (@Mastercard) November 3, 2018
Portada: How will you measure your marketing efforts?
"This is the first time that we’re activating around esports, and we’re very pleased with the response so far. We’ve been delighted by the way the community has interacted with the Mastercard Nexus and their overall reaction has been overwhelmingly positive thus far. It's early days, but this indicates to us that we are on the right path forward."
Portada: From a marketing perspective, what opportunities do you see in the esports market that other brands shouldn’t be missing out on?
"As a global brand and technology company, we see great synergy for a company like ours to be in this space. Like I said before, our partnership with League of Legends esports opens opportunities for us to engage with this global community through onsite experiential activations like the Mastercard Nexus, and in-game through special Mastercard spend-and-use promotions. These are all opportunities to not only drive our brand and reputation but our business as well."