There aren’t many esports brands that approach branding and partnerships (or business in general) quite like G2 Esports. The organisation stands out with its approach of quality over quantity and will turn down any offer that doesn’t align with the brand, no matter how lucrative it might be. This way of thinking secured them sponsorships and partnerships with some of the biggest brands in the world, but what’s it like to decide which partnerships are worth pursuing, and which ones aren’t?
Luckily, Esports Insider spoke with somebody that has the answers. Since she joined G2 in 2018, Sabrina Ratih has been working to position G2 as the world’s leading esports brand. If recent partnerships and campaigns are to be believed, she (and G2 in general) have done very well. She now works as the Commercial Director for the organisation.
Since we’re living through challenging times, it was natural for us to ask how the pandemic affected G2. Luckily, Ratih mentioned that their strategy didn’t change much last year. “We’re here to entertain, after all,” she joked, adding that there were some changes in the way they did things last year. These were mostly focused on adapting strategies to the world without live events:
“The ways in which we reach our audience had to evolve quickly due to the lack of live events, and the fact that production teams haven’t been able to travel. We have been very fast to respond and definitely have seen this past year as an opportunity to grow our expertise in facilitating multi-day, fully broadcast online tournaments and getting creative with remote shoots and productions.”
G2’s answer to the COVID-19 crisis was to adapt to where its fans were. With the pandemic still very much real, Ratih informed us that they aim to accelerate growth via other channels beyond competitions and physical events. The partnerships they will announce soon reflect that, she added, though cryptic with the details.
It is 14.01.2021
LETS GO! pic.twitter.com/AM4QN3052u
— G2 Esports (@G2esports) January 14, 2021
Right partners, right audiences
In the pandemic-dominated year of 2020, G2 and many other esports organisations secured big partnerships. This comes as no surprise, considering that esports events were part of a rare group that didn’t get cancelled in the first half of 2020. With partnerships with the likes of Pringles, Lenovo and BMW, G2 had a productive year, and Ratih thinks that the brand values helped that:
“We like to be bold and we like to have fun, and in a very simple way, this is affectionate and translates into the way we activate our partnerships. In the last year, we were fortunate to launch exciting partnerships with Adidas, BMW, Lenovo, Pringles to name a few, all of which see us work together to co-create a variety of different bespoke experiences that match the strategic overlap of G2 and our partners. We look for brands that have a genuine interest to engage with our fans in a meaningful and entertaining way. Once that’s a given you can bring the best out of every partnership because fans will appreciate both the authenticity and that we’re having fun while doing it.”
Even though esports fans might raise an eyebrow at this, Ratih and G2 firmly believe that esports is a form of entertainment. As such, partnering with the right brands in their respective spaces helps them widen the funnel and tap into new audiences. Even more so, Ratih noted that it was the entertainment value that drew her to G2 in the first place at ESI Digital Spring this year.
Ratih explained that G2 has a very fun, but most importantly a very versatile brand. Partnering with non-endemic brands is not only entertaining for the fans but is also one of the pillars to underline their relevance beyond esports. This, in turn, has a positive impact on investor relations and growth trajectory.
Non-endemic brands should be open to new ideas
But why don’t more mainstream, non-esports brands then support esports orgs of all sizes? It boils down to the simplest of things: they don’t know how to do it. The biggest challenge with esports brands and mainstream sponsors lies in the lack of knowledge each has in the other, as Ratih explained:
“Getting to know each other is part of the natural process, but sparking that vision of what those two brands can ultimately do together is what’s often missing. It’s not the ‘how’ that needs to be answered first, it’s the ‘what are we aiming to achieve?’. Why will this translate into meaningful engagements with fans and healthy ROIs on both sides? This process can be challenging at times as it demands that brands focus on their strengths and acknowledge their weaknesses, which in turn is linked to letting go of some of the control major sponsor brands usually have across their own channels.
“The openness to try something new should be at the centre in order for brands to properly leverage our and our fans’ hunger for innovation across our partnerships.”
Fans love ‘strange’ partnerships
Even though G2 cooperates intensely with non-esports brands, critics might say that it’s actually negative for the organisation itself. Ratih told us that the partnerships with non-esports brands are actually shining a new light on those companies. They’re automatically viewed as more interesting in the target demographic, which is 18 to 34 years of age. Ratih says they tend not to receive bad press about these partnerships because they’re cleverly interlinked and delivered in a way that the audience will react well to. As an example, Ratih spoke about Domino’s:
“We created a range of original content designed to showcase how Domino’s will help bring esports fans together around their shared love of pizza and gaming, which helps highlight links between the esports community and others. By partnering with brands outside of the ‘gaming sphere’ such as Domino’s, it helps G2 connect and feed fans via a variety of online streams, giveaways, and community events.”
Not every brand is a right partner
The prestige of the G2 brand is such that they can pick and choose who to work with. Ratih told ESI that the global fanbase of G2 consists of almost 40 million fans worldwide. As well as being popular in EMEA, North America, Latin America, and the Asia Pacific, G2 is one of the most popular teams in China. This gets the attention of many household names and brands that want to explore the possibility of working with G2, but a lot of them don’t get to that stage. Ratih explained:
“Over the past three years, we have been very selective as to who we partner with. Besides market share in the respective industry, criteria like brand tonality, long-term commitment into the esports space, and of course ambition to innovate are equally important. By following that path, which is by the way not limited to sponsorships but also applies to consumer products and media licensing, we were able to welcome a strong selection of blue-chip brands over the past few years, including BMW, Logitech G, Philips, Red Bull, Twitch and Mastercard.”
Ratih also noted that G2 declines offers from sponsors more often than many of us might think. She added that success is bound to come only if they activate partnerships in the same way they activate the G2 brand. If the strategic overlap is not there, the partnership will suffer. That’s why G2 only selects partners that closely align with their vision.
Creating a community should be the goal of every brand
Ratih shared some advice she might give to smaller brands that aim to make a splash in the industry:
“It’s all about understanding your audience and working collaboratively with brands to cater to their needs. G2 has a loyal community that follows every twist and turn of the club’s fortunes along with the global esports calendar, and we’ve built up such a close-knit community across our social channels; everyone feels as though they’re part of the family. This is the ultimate goal — the success of a partnership is not only measured by the message you send but more importantly by how your audience responds to it. If you create that sense of community and belonging within a commercial framework you are on the right track, regardless of if you are a global multi-team esports org or a smaller local team that’s only just getting started.”
Ratih concluded that the next steps for G2 are tied to their North America expansion plans. Even though they have a strong footprint in the NA market, they’re looking to double down on engagement touchpoints and presence where it’s possible. This, however, is a topic for another time.