TNL Esports Brand Tracker 008: Bud Light

TNL Take: 2016 saw Bud Light make its first foray into esports with their All-Stars sponsorship. While that program wasn't perfect, Bud Light tripled down on their investment in 2017 with a deeper integration and revamped All-Stars.

To kick off the new year, Bud Light and Collegiate Star League have partnered to bring events to Canadian campuses.

The "End Game,” is a series of fighting game tournaments with a $1,000 prize pool per event.  The tour will hit 8 bars near selected colleges and includes their respective esports club. 

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While the program is for only two months, this is Bud Light's second esports partnership in Canada.  With the Canadian drinking age at 19, Bud Light has more leeway for partnerships than in the United States.

Bud Light Triples Down On eSports

TNL ESPORTS BRAND TRACKER 028: BUD LIGHT

Bud Light Triples Down On eSports - TNL Brand Tracker 028: Bud Light (Photo: Bud Light)

Bud Light Triples Down On eSports - TNL Brand Tracker 028: Bud Light (Photo: Bud Light)

TNL Take: Last year Bud Light made a big splash with their first investment within eSports.

While the program wasn't perfect and did receive some negative feedback most missed the bigger picture:

  • Alcohol brands have previously barely sponsored Gaming let alone eSports - that's a huge first
  • This was Year 1 for a major brand to enter a new space - plenty of valuable education will come from the first integration
  • A/B InBev spent $1.4B on the NFL alone for Bud Light to be the NFL's official beer sponsor through 2022 - any eSports leagues that may want a piece of this?

Now Bud Light has greatly extended it's program in 2017 and here's a breakdown of the various  elements to their new eSports investment.

 

/01 BUD LIGHT ALL STARS 2.0

Bud Light All-Stars 2017 (Photo: Bud Light)

Bud Light All-Stars 2017 (Photo: Bud Light)

Bud Light's first foray into eSports last year centered around their Bud Light All-Stars program which selected several athletes and influencers from across different gaming genres with 5 winners.

Bud Light's 2016 eSports Sposorship (Photo: Bud Light)

Bud Light's 2016 eSports Sposorship (Photo: Bud Light)

There was the expected criticism around the selection of nominees but everyone missed the financial forest for the twitter trees: Bud Light took their learnings and increased their investment in 2017.

Those complaining about why certain popular players weren't nominated didn't consider that they had to be 21+ and North American and not have have team owners ask for exorbitant money from a first time sponsor.

This year consisted of 16 nominees across Counter-Strike, Hearthstone, Call of Duty and Street Fighter V with the winners of each game streaming consecutively on Twitch for 8 hours along with giving away prizes and bits - a little more on that soon.

Bud Light All-Stars Winners Twitch Stream (Photo: Bud Light/Twitch)

Bud Light All-Stars Winners Twitch Stream (Photo: Bud Light/Twitch)

What's interesting in Bud Light's All-Star approach is that instead of sponsoring a complete team or league for a game they may not be able to work with directly - Street Fighter and it's publisher Capcom for example - their All-Stars ended up being some of the top Pro's in their scenes which allows Bud Light to still get attached to that games brand.

 

/02 BUD LIGHT ALL STARS MANSION

2017's Bud Light All-Stars Mansion (Photo: Bud Light)

2017's Bud Light All-Stars Mansion (Photo: Bud Light)

 

Bud Light also created a content series with the final episode culminating with the All-Stars being flown out and staying in a mansion in Vegas.

Bud Light All-Stars Filming at the Vegas Mansion (Photo: Bud Light)

Bud Light All-Stars Filming at the Vegas Mansion (Photo: Bud Light)

 

/03 BUD LIGHT EVENTS

Bud Light at DreamHack (Photo: Bud Light)

Bud Light at DreamHack (Photo: Bud Light)

In conjunction with the eSports voting component, Bud Light continued to invest in events by presenting at both DreamHack Austin and DreamHack Atlanta, which included an onsight Happy Hour each day.

 

/04 BUD LIGHT AND BARS

DreamHack Atlanta Shown in Local Bars (Photo: Twitter)

DreamHack Atlanta Shown in Local Bars (Photo: Twitter)

In addition to activating at DreamHack Atlanta,  Bud Light did something very simple that provides a starting point for collecting data and measuring advertising ROI: they partnered with a local bar and DreamHack attendees that showed their badge unlocked specials.

The possibilities to extend this further are endless.

 

/05 BUD LIGHT CANADA

Bud Light's eSports Extension to Canada (Photo: Bud Light)

Bud Light's eSports Extension to Canada (Photo: Bud Light)

Any sign of a successful advertising program — or willing to explore the opportunity further — are renewals. Bud Light not only has clearly increased their investment in the US but has also extended their eSports initiative to Canada as well.

While the Canadian portion isn’t as extensive as the US counterpart, the addition of an opportunity to spend a weekend with your favorite Bud Light All-Star at a Gaming house is pretty cool and they’ve included similar concepts to music and UFC in addition to eSports.

 

WHAT’S NEXT FOR BUD LIGHT?

Beer advertising is a $1B+ market in the US alone with a majority spent around sports content.

The exclusive study that The Next Level conducted with Wunderman showed how much greater the eSports audience indexed within the Alcohol category vs. the March Madness audience for comparison:

The Next Level and Wunderman Research Study (Infographic: The Next Level)

The Next Level and Wunderman Research Study (Infographic: The Next Level)

Considering that Bud Light is currently reigning in the Alcohol category, I’d envision competitors moving in very quickly and for it to be the 2nd fastest growing brand category after Auto for eSports in 2017.

However I wouldn’t expect AB InBev to sit back idly and with just a fraction of their overall sports advertising budget, could continue to own eSports market share.

Which League or Game could get Bud Light get into next?

 

Major League Baseball = No eSports

Rocket League = Too Young

League of Legends = Too global whereas Bud Light is primarily North American

NBA2K League = Potentially but I would bet on Mountain Dew first 

Overwatch League = Maybe but also skews a bit younger and would they dive in at the current prices in Year 1?

 

So what’s left?

Just the NFL and Madden.

TNL eSports Brand Tracker 016: Bud Light eSports All Stars

TNL ESPORTS BRAND TRACKER 016: Bud Light eSports All Stars

(Photo: Bud Light)

TNL Take: After years of involvement with traditional sports, Bud Light is partnering with eSports for the first time.

Starting next week, fans will vote for their favorite All-Stars of who the top players will engage the community via live streaming, custom content, tournaments, and onsite activations.

When looking at the top Ad Categories by spending, at least 1 Brand within each Category has invested within Gaming: Retail, Auto, Telco, Financial Services, CPG, QSR, Insurance, Beverage, etc.

In my 10+ years at the intersection of Gaming and Advertising, there’s been 1–2 Alcohol programs total (Coors Light did a program with Xbox 360 in 2014 and a Mobile Game in 2015). Not only had the Category not been expanded, the entrance comes from the world’s largest brewer with $50B in revenue that paid $1.4B to be the Official Beer sponsor of the NFL.

The challenge came down to two factors: Age targeting limitations and the audience size post targeting.

eSports is the perfect medium for this demo as SuperData and Newzoo have already said (coupled with internal live streaming data), the majority of viewership and audience is 21+.

The data below from Gaming research firm EEDAR is for players only but provides additional corroboration for the 21+ audience:

(Photo: EEDAR)

I also like that the program incorporates a few different elements:

  • Fan Engagement: Vote for your favorite eSports players supported by…
  • Events: Athletes reveal at Dreamhack. Winners announced at E3. All-Star Tournament at TwitchCon. Onsite Activations.
  • Custom Content: Exclusive streams on Twitch and a Behind-the-Scenes series developed by Machinima.

Is the program perfect?

No.

But for all the reasons above it’s a great start. Big hand to all those involved on the Brand, Agency, and Platform/Event side to make this happen.

For new Brands engaging with eSports, 2016 is off to a fantastic start.