The best esports advertising campaigns of 2019

31 December 2019


With 2020 almost upon us, it’s time to summarise some of the most creative advertising campaigns in esports throughout 2019. 

This year, esports has collectively made strides in claiming a rightful place in the pantheon of entertainment industries. Indeed, esports now has its own category in The Emmys. Throughout 2019, we’ve seen more global brands get involved; more creative minds shifting their focus to esports; esports-related projects start to win top advertising awards – and this is just the beginning.

At Esports Insider, we’ve chosen to celebrate some of these achievements by showcasing the selections made across a number of categories by The Esports Ads. These are some of the most significant, captivating, and outstanding cases delivered in the past 12 months.

The game changer of the year

Name: Changing The Game
Client: Microsoft
Agency: McCann New York
Award: Cannes Grand Prix in Brand Experience & Activation

While this campaign wasn’t explicitly made for esports, when games and technology empower one, they empower all.

Microsoft created the Xbox Adaptive Controller, a device designed to help people with disabilities play video games. The campaign, which focused on passionate young gamers, inspired waves of people with disabilities to join the esports community. New teams were formed, not necessarily to win prize money, but to help people during rehabilitation, to find a new passion, and to unite as a community.

This spot was made for Super Bowl 2019 where it became one of the most outstanding commercials.  

Smart tech integration of the year

Name: Colonel AI
Clients: KFC (Yum! Brands)
Agency: Mindshare China

KFC has made the gaming community a core pillar of its communications in China since 2015. However, four years on, far more mainstream brands also have some gaming-related sponsorships in place. In turn, KFC moved beyond pure sponsorships to build deeper engagement with gamers by creating an AI commentator that predicted outcomes of League of Legends tournaments in China.

Results were carefully measured and generated impact on both brand metrics & sales: KFC gained 70 minutes of brand exposure per day to over 203 million (peak number of viewers), with 100 percent of Colonel KI’s coupons being taken & 25 percent of the coupons being redeemed. This was a notable 2,500 percent above the benchmark.

KFC proved that utilising new forms of technology, if done in the right way, can be an integral part of advertising. The Esports Ads’ case study goes into more depth on this particular campaign.

Female empowerment of the year

Name: Team Bumble
Clients: Bumble
Agency: Gen.G esports in-house

In the past year, Bumble made a big play to focus on the often-overlooked community of female gamers and fans in an effort to raise awareness of its dating and friendship application. The Austin-based company partnered with multinational esports organisation Gen.G esports to form and launch an all-female team in Fortnite.

Bumble committed to this campaign on its own turf with a gaming badge being introduced in its application, highlighting users that enjoy playing or watching video games and, indeed, esports.

Branded content of the year

Name: Against The Odds
Clients: Red Bull/OG
Agency: Red Bull Media House

Imagine watching a piece of branded content that is over 80 minutes long. Sound ridiculous? Some video documentaries are proving the opposite with a focus on emotionally-charged and captivating storytelling. Against The Odds has received over 1.7 million views, 5,000 comments, 43,000 likes, and just 700 dislikes since August. In our eyes, this is clear evidence that esports fans can, and will, watch long “native” formats of advertising.

Red Bull Media House is widely-regarded as an expert in storytelling when it comes to traditional sports. The company’s focus on empowering esports is great news for the space as a whole, this documentary is a case in point, and the way in which they portray complex characters, their challenges, and rivalries on the road to greatness landed well both inside and outside the team’s fan base.

Fan-focused content of the year

Name: No fan, no hype
Clients: Lion Cereals
Agency: Hurrah

A surprisingly-high portion of esports video advertising feels like a copy-and-paste job. Often times, such content can lack original ideas and solid execution. Hurrah is one of the agencies that knows that esports needs creativity in advertising to engage fans in a meaningful way, delivering fan-friendly communications.

“No fan, no hype” is advertising hymn to the fans. The video literally uplifts League of Legends fans, making them the one and only reason as to why we all are here. It helps to build an emotional connection between a cereal brand and esports consumers – something that’s not a simple task by any means.

Tech innovation of the year

Name: The Gamewaves Scanner
Client: HP Omen
Agency: W+K Shanghai, North Kingdom

To demonstrate that gaming can positively impact the brain, W+K Shanghai created a live performance powered by the minds of casual and professional players alike. Using cutting-edge brain-scanning technology, it demonstrated how gaming improves skills such as teamwork, focus, mental stamina, and memory.

The intricate technology not only got people’s attention but elevated the idea that video games and esports can positively impact the human brain – a message that’s much needed in today’s climate where these industries are blamed for a myriad of unrelated tragedies on a far too regular basis.

Influencer collaboration of the year

Name: Astralis Learns Smack Talk
Client: Turtle Beach
Agency: RFRSH Media

One of the most renowned gaming streamers meets one of the best CS:GO teams. Despite killing it at Major after Major, Astralis still had something to learn: trash-talk. The Danish side achieved this by joining the most ruthless competitor in his dojo, while also acquiring the best gaming devices to ultimately become the greatest CS:GO team ever.

By combining two successful esports and gaming brands, Astralis and Dr Disrespect, an experience that expertly mixed insightful gags with great production and, moreover, resonated perfectly with the target audience(s).

PR campaign of the year

Name: The Senior Game Changers
Client: Lenovo
Agency: Ehrenstråhle

Lenovo believes that gaming is for everyone and it went about proving this by creating a series of CS:GO teams comprised only of elderly people.

The movement became a cultural phenomenon. These unexpected teams played against professionals (somewhat) younger than them, held interviews, chatted with politicians, helped to sell equipment and merchandise, and – most importantly – inspired a lot of people to learn about and get involved in esports along the way.

Lenovo connected different audiences with a relevant message: even your granny can enjoy esports. It was an initiative that spread rapidly among and beyond the gaming community.

Short film of the year

Name: A Kid’s Dream
Client: Team Vitality for V.Hive
Agency: Team Vitality, The Thing Alive, When We Were Kids

To celebrate the launch and grand opening of V.Hive in Paris, the largest European esports complex and Team Vitality’s new headquarters, the French organisation produced a video about a childhood dream of becoming a professional player. 

The carefully-crafted piece of storytelling competed with big ad agencies’ productions, showing that every kid can build their future and live their dream in esports while subtly advertising that the V.Hive was open for business.

Experience of the year

Name: The Baptizer
Client: Lenovo
Agency: Ehrenstråhle

For many of those who play games, a nickname or gamertag is one of their identities. Using this simple but meaningful insight, Lenovo created an engaging activation that combined a player’s offline and online worlds by allowing them to add their nickname as their legal name with the Swedish Tax Office.

The execution of such an endeavor can appear complicated but still, those attending the event said that it was almost hypnotic. Either way, it’s certainly an interesting concept and shows that gaming is something to be embraced, not hidden away behind closed doors.

Spot of the year

Name: I Have An Idea
Client: Unibet
Agency: Astralis

Astralis, as an organisation, is already well-versed in creativity. Almost every piece of work that it has produced this year was both professional and well thought out.

This spot developed for its partner Unibet was an excellent example of how one can organically place a professional player into a story. While Nicolai “dev1ce” Reedtz was not the main character in the feature and the camera didn’t follow his every step, his mere presence added weight to the storytelling without overwhelming the spot.

Collaboration of the year

Name: LVxLoL capsule collection
Client: Louis Vuitton
Agency: Louis Vuitton in-house

Fashion house Louis Vuitton started its esports expansion in September of this year, partnering with Riot Games to cover League of Legends esports. It has built an interesting relationship with the gaming audience, and in turn, the expensive esports collection sold out within an hour of launch.

Louis Vuitton found a business opportunity at the intersection of fashion and esports. It realised its position as one of the most popular fashion brands overlapped in countries where esports had become a cultural phenomenon. Connecting the Louis Vuitton brand with esports allowed the brand to reach a younger audience that was prepared to spend money on items related to League of Legends.

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