In November 2018, developer Riot Games announced that European League of Legends esports was “evolving” by way of a multitude of changes. Establishing its own identity by moving away from its North American counterpart, the League of Legends European Championship – LEC for short – was born.
Complete with its new name, the LEC saw the introduction of new branding, a new studio, an adjusted format, and 10 teams that had agreed upon long-term partnerships with the league. The teams, a mixture of old and new, would stand to represent Riot Games’ long-term commitment to the title.
It was unknown at the time how the LEC would fare under its new direction, however, it appears as if these changes would actually be a catalyst for its future success. An increase in viewership, praise from the community, and a plethora of new sponsors have all been the results of Riot Games’ risk.
Esports Insider spoke to Alban Dechelotte, Head of Sponsorship & Business Development EU Esport at Riot Games about utilizing the infancy of the brand to attract new sponsors, the growth of the league, and what the ever-changing future holds for the LEC.
Esports Insider: The LEC has seen a variety of non-endemic sponsors, such as KIA and Shell, join its cause this year. What can you tell us about your approach of convincing companies to take the leap into esports?
Alban Dechelotte: Firstly, League of Legends is a family-friendly game which means it caters towards a younger generation and benefits from having sustainable popularity amongst a hard-to-reach an audience. Secondly, the LEC is the leading esports league in Europe. And finally, alongside our partners, Lagardère Sports, we take a very tailor-made approach when answering marketing briefs from non-endemic brands. This positions us favourably towards collaborating with brands looking to tap into the next generation.
“We try to navigate this environment by always focusing on the player experience first.”
ESI: A mid-split viewership update provided figures which showed 50% growth compared to last year, bringing the number of unique viewers who tune in each day to over 1.5 million. What do you think has been the main contributing factor to the rise?
AD: It’s difficult to isolate only one factor. Having a completely new identity with the rebrand to the LEC, new teams, players and talent, and a new approach to our on-air content – with a more humorous angle to reinforce the entertainment component of our show – are all contributing factors. There’s still huge potential for us to grow within our existing player base so one of our aims is to look at how we can give our League of Legends players a reason to become LEC fans.
ESI: This year we saw the introduction of long-term partners with teams in the LEC. How important is it to build long-lasting relationships with organisations?
AD: This is an essential evolution to enable teams to invest in their players and their organisation’s infrastructure and coaching staff. It also encourages investor and sponsors support as teams have less risk of being relegated. The new structure has also allowed us to work alongside a select portfolio of teams that cover all the major countries to stimulate fandoms across Europe.
“Our long-term goal to build a multi-generation sport that inspires fans.”
ESI: The esports landscape is forever changing with new laws, technology, and competitors. What do you think are the key factors for adapting to these changes?
AD: From a Riot Games point of view, we try to navigate this environment by always focusing on the player experience first.
ESI: Riot Games recently unveiled a report that stated the LEC Spring Finals contributed €2 million to the local economy of Rotterdam. With access to data such as guest spend and nationality, how will this allow you to adapt to the future bidding process? Could we see a LEC final outside of Europe?
AD: This kind of impact survey will help more cities realise what esports has to offer to their local economies and tourism and spur them on to become host cities themselves. There are a number of cities within Europe that we want to consider before we look to take the LEC outside of our continent.
ESI: With the first year of LEC already showing so much growth, what are your long-term goals?
AD: Our long-term goal is to build a multi-generation sport that inspires fans to one day to become the next professional players on the LEC stage.