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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.

 

Raja Rajamannar, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer at Mastercard.

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.”

League of LegendsPortada: 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.”

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.”

Join us at PORTADA LOS ANGELES on March 15, 2019, at the Loews Beach Hotel Santa Monica, where we will dive deep into sports and soccer marketing’s preeminent topics.  Felix Palau, VP Marketing, Heineken will discuss “How to measure ROI and transfer best practices between sports marketing platforms.” Other speakers will include Tiago Pinto, Global Marketing Director, Gatorade who will provide answers to the question: “Will Corporate America jump on the soccer opportunity?” Attendees will also be able to benefit from Portada’s meet-up service of three, eight-minute meetings with top brand executives!

MastercardPortada: 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.”

 

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.”

What: South Florida based eSports leader Ben Spoont will speak at Portada Miami.
Why it matters: The Miami Heat partner will discuss how eSports is bringing value to existing traditional professional sports teams.

Joe Favorito, chair of the Sports Marketing Board, has prepared a background piece on speaker Ben Spoont and the topic he will be discussing at Portada Miami. To join the conversation with him and all our other speakers, register here!

Ben Spoont (@benspoontis the co-founder and owner of Misfits (@misfitsgg). The Misfits organization owns teams that compete in League of Legends, CounterStrike: Global Offensive, Overwatch, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, as well as participating in the game Super Smash Bros.

The parnership… associated their young and growing brand with the iconic one of the Miami Heat.

In 2016, Misfits (cofounded by Spoont with Syfy Channel founders Laurie Silvers and Mitch Rubenstein) partnered with the Miami Heat, becoming the NBA franchise’s foray into eSports and gaming.

The partnership was groundbreaking as it gave Misfits resources into the traditional sports world, assisting with merchandise development, marketing, digital, sponsorship, ad sales, and activation as well as associating their young and growing brand with the iconic one of the Miami Heat.

Spoont, a Duke grad, will be part of the panel on April 19 in Miami which will take the audience through the growth of eSports and help explain the great brand value that professional teams are bringing to eSports while exposing a legacy NBA brand to a new and diverse, and younger, audience.

Portada Miami attendees will get to learn how the world of the NBA and the world of gaming have come together, straight from one of the most influential people in such a unique partnership.

 

 

 

Check out the stars of Portada’s Sports Marketing Board, who will meet at Portada Miami on April 18-19 to discuss various topics related to the future of marketing and innovation in sports. Register now!

What: Portada talked to Alban Dechelotte, Senior Entertainment Marketing Manager at The Coca-Cola Company, about why brands should start investing in eSports.
Why it matters: Although eSports is still a mystery for many, nearly 200 million people around the world are consuming eSports content. According to Newzoo, in 2017 the eSports industry will grow by 41.3% to global annual revenues of US$ 696 million and to US $1.5 billion by 2020.

eSports is becoming a force to be reckoned with for the marketing and media business. Research firm Newzoo expects brands to spend US $517 million in eSports this year (US $155 million on advertising, US $266 million on sponsorships, and US $95 million on media rights). Consumer spending this year on tickets and merchandise will amount to US $64 million. Another $116 million will be invested by game publishers through partnership deals with white-label organizers. Coca Cola has been one of the first major marketers to support eSports. In 2013, Coca-Cola decided to embrace the eSports trend by signing an official global partnership with Riot Games and the League of Legends Championship Series. Coca-Cola has mantained this annual investment ever since. In fact, last year Coca Cola celebrated its first eCopa Coca Cola. That is why Portada talked to Alban Dechelotte (photo) who leads Coca Cola’s eSports efforts.

Alban Dechelotte

Portada: Who should be considering eSports as their next sports marketing investment?
Alban Dechelotte, Senior Entertainment Marketing Manager at The Coca-Cola Company: “eSports is good for brands that want to be relevant to younger demographics, especially male. eSports can be complementary to a preexisting sports marketing strategy, but brands can have dedicated strategies geared towards eSports as well.”

eSports is good for brands that want to be relevant to younger demographics, especially male.

Portada: Why is it the right platform for Coca-Cola?
A.D.: “For years Coca-Cola has connected to the people it cares about though their passions. Today, the people we most care about, care about gaming and eSports. It’s natural for us to celebrate the fans of eSports no differently than any other passion point.”

Portada: In terms of sponsorship investment, how big are eSports for Coca-Cola?

A.D.: “We don’t share this publicly, but it’s growing with the space.

Portada: What eSports events are most important to Coca-Cola in the US?A.D.: “League of Legends World Finals. Last year we had more fans attending our cinema viewing parties than attending the sold out live event at Staples Center, in Los Angeles.”

Also read: For The First Time ESPN will Broadcast Esports Live

Portada: Which are the main challenges for a brand when planning a marketing strategy around eSports?
A.D.: “The challenge is that eSports is digital, and sports marketing has been built on TV. As a result, there is a new paradigm in the fundamental way brands can reach consumers through their passion. It’s important for brands to recognize this and the audience they’re after. Brands have to approach it with the right tone and honor the fans by being genuine and authentic.”

The challenge is that eSports is digital, and sports marketing has been built on TV.

Portada: What mistakes have you learned from working in the eSports area?
A.D.: “We’ve learned that it’s really important to manage expectations and over communicate. We work hard to earn fans’ trust and if they feel like you’ve under-delivered they’ll let you know. The most important thing is to listen to their feedback and learn from it for the next time.”

Portada: Global brand experience agency Momentum Worldwide revealed that 53% of gamers believe that more people will watch video games than traditional sports by 2022. Do you think this is true?
A.D.: “We need to be careful with such fans declarative survey. I love rugby, and I think it has the potential to be the biggest sport on the planet, but of course, this isn’t necessarily the case. That being said, all the signs for continued positive growth in eSports are there.”

Portada: Given this growth, what marketing move should brands start doing?
A.D.: “They need to look at their sports marketing strategy and reflect what they are doing for eSports, in the way that is best for their brand and their audience.”

Feature image: @CokeEsports