In the past two years, Immortals has cycled through 15 different League of Legends players on its main roster, leading the LCS in that statistic.
With so much turnover in such little time, it can be hard to form an identity around a team’s players and create a brand that fans can get behind. Teams such as Dignitas and TSM FTX started from just a small group of players who quickly grew into household names.
As new players join the league, they have to stand out against a crowd of well-known names such as Perkz, Jensen, Impact and many more. However, for Immortals’s Director of Brand, Brad Peters, the solution to solving this problem came from just a few miles away.
“I live in Palo Alto, I’m up here in Northern California, so I’m obviously pulling from the Golden State Warriors, but they do a really awesome branding push around playoffs that’s about strength in numbers,” said Peters.
He continued: “So what you don’t want to be is the Steph Curry show, and I think the same thing goes for esports, especially because turnover of players is really, really fast. You have players who are only there for a single split and they leave. . . . It’s not just about one specific player. It’s also not just about the brand itself. It’s about the fans. It’s about everyone. It’s about the team aspect.”
Peters has only been working with Immortals since June, but his plans have already created an impact. Immortals players can now be seen cheering on their teammates whenever one of them has an on-air interview, and that caught the eye of LCS caster Isaac ‘Azael’ Cummings-Bentley.
I love how when an @Immortals player is getting interviewed their whole team is just sitting in the stands watching the interview and clapping for them 🤣
They're their own biggest fans & you love to see it!
— Isaac CB (@AzaelOfficial) June 27, 2021
The support between teammates is something Peters wanted to foster, and he said it’s what gives Immortals its identity.
“It’s about that idea of we’re a brotherhood, we’re a team that even if nobody cared about us, we care about us,” Peters stated. “And you see that replicated in what we’re doing. So taking a bit of traditional sports, putting it into esports and using that to push our brand forward.”
While the idea of ‘team over individuals’ rings true for most organisations, Immortals is seemingly forced to adhere to that mantra, as the team does not have any top-billed players like Warriors’ Steph Curry. Nevertheless, this doesn’t phase Peters because of the camaraderie that Immortals tries to facilitate.
He emphasised: “We’re not the team who’s bringing in the $6m contract [players], and then is sitting them on the bench or whatever.
“We’re not the team who is overpaying some top tier talent. What we’re trying to do is bring people in that we believe in, give them an opportunity and make them immortal.”
The value of an identity
Currently in esports, there are dozens of teams and players looking to create unique identities. Whether it’s an older organisation with a long legacy or a new team looking to make a name for itself, marketing and communications is an integral aspect to any organisation.
Nicola Piggott, Co-owner of The Story Mob, a communications agency that has worked with LCS and LEC teams for several years, says that it’s difficult to work with teams and players that don’t match their words with actions.
“It’s all very well to do these branding exercises, and to say, ‘We stand for these amounts of values. We’re diversity and inclusion champions,’ but what does that mean?” said Piggot.“What are you actually doing to make that value true? Because otherwise it’s just words, it’s just blah-blah marketing, and esports fans are the most discerning and knowing when something’s just fluff PR. If there’s nothing, if there’s no behaviour associated with it, then you’re going to fall flat on your face.”
Peters shared a similar sentiment, stating that esports fans have sharp senses when it comes to things that feel out of touch. That means it’s even more important to have a team like The Story Mob to help make that connection with fans, he explained.
“The esports audience is the most savvy audience in the world, they understand when something is fake or cringe like right off the top,” added Peters. “So you have to have that relationship. And then what The Story Mob is able to do is be that PR for us, help us understand how to get that out properly to the world. But in addition, they also provide awesome things for our players like media training and helping them understand how to present themselves in interviews.”
Changes from the ground up
Immortals’s director further highlighted the importance of making sure these changes aren’t just surface level and instead run much deeper. While many organisations such as Dignitas, Evil Geniuses and FlyQuest have rebranded and changed logos recently, Peters is aiming for much more.
“The things that I’m saying here are not just putting on a fresh coat of paint or changing the logo and just hoping that they win,” Peters said. “This is like deep in the engine changes for who Immortals is. That’s going to elevate us not just as a brand, but as individual players, as an individual organisation, that’s going to take us over the next three, five years to becoming a dynasty that we’ve wanted to be for a long time.”
As the popularity of esports increases each year, more brands – both endemic and non-endemic – are looking to associate themselves with the sector. As such, Piggott explained that a need for proper communications is in high demand, and she’s happy to see how far it’s come since she started working in the industry for almost a decade.
She said: “I’m extremely excited to see teams and players starting to understand the value of communications and marketing in a way that I couldn’t have dreamed of when I first started working in esports nearly a decade ago.
“There really wasn’t this much attention to that kind of stuff that we all know is so critical from watching traditional sports, so it’s great to see and I’m super happy to still be in the midst of it nearly 10 years later.”
Brand success is often accompanied by success in games, and for Peters, Immortals is not far away from winning LCS titles. Only time will tell whether the team can climb through the LCS playoffs to achieve its domestic ambitions this split.